According to recent World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) figures, UK travel and tourism grew at four times the rate of the country’s economy in 2017. Likewise, small businesses catering for holidaymakers saw turnover jump 8.3 per cent in the first half of 2017.
In short, domestic tourism in the UK is on the rise once again. This is good news for the UK economy as a whole, but particularly for the hospitality and transport industries. With more UK citizens looking to their own backyard for travel opportunities, transport networks are in a unique position to capitalise. For coach hire and tour companies, it’s an opportunity that can’t be passed up.
Several factors have contributed to the boost in domestic tourism, including:
- The drop in the value of the pound following the Brexit vote
- An increased awareness of the cultural/historically significant UK attractions thanks to TV shows and movies
- The threat of terrorism
- A growing backlash against ‘global tourism’ in popular tourist cities
- A rise in the cost of holidays abroad following the introduction of the ‘tourist tax’
- Greater investment in local attractions
Of course, these factors are liable to change in time. That’s why coach companies would do well to make use of the opportunities now, or, as the saying goes, make hay while the sun shines.
The top UK attractions
Great Britain boasts several popular attractions for local and overseas tourists. Some of the top attractions include:
- The British Museum
- The National Gallery
- The Natural History Museum
- The Scottish Highlands
- Northern Ireland
- Chester Zoo
- The Lake District
- Theme parks, including Drayton Manor, Alton Towers, and Legoland Windsor
Coach companies have an opportunity to take advantage of the boost in domestic tourism, providing they’re willing to make use of the latest technology to streamline the travel process and stand out from the competition.
Domestic tourism in numbers
In 2017, residents took 100.6 million overnight trips in England, totalling 299 million nights away from home and expenditure of £19 billion. Unsurprisingly, the car was the preferred form of transport, with 76% opting to drive themselves for overnight trips and 65% of day trips. In 2017, British residents took 100.6 million overnight trips in England, totalling 299 million nights away from home and expenditure of £19 billion, with an average trip length of 3 nights.
Public transport was used in 20% of overnight trips and 23% of day trips. The majority of these trips were by train – 15% of overnight trips and 10% of day trips, while regular bus services were used in just 8% of day trips and only 2% of overnight trips.
Meanwhile, organised coach tours were used in 2% of overnight trips and 1% of day trips in 2017.
Over half of trips made by public transport are to a large city or town (56%). However, in terms of the region from which the traveller comes, there is little difference for both public transport and car transport to the national profile. Meanwhile, 47.2 million holiday trips were taken in England last year, 6% higher than in 2016.
Of course, these numbers only paint half the picture. They don’t explore what people do whilst they’re holidaying, and, more importantly, how travel companies can take advantage of the staycations new-found popularity.
Capitalising on domestic tourism
For coach tour companies, for ways to take advantage of the latest tourism trends? You’re going to need a keen eye for the most popular spots, not to mention some social media savvy to get your marketing out there.
Understanding your passenger
First and foremost, of course, you have to understand your target demographic. Comparing the metrics from your site analytics alongside data from your bookings, allows you to build a detailed understanding of your customer base. These ‘demographic snapshots’ should inform the kind of tours and routes you run.
For instance, travel companies that specialise in providing tours to the 18-30 bracket have found real success in running tours based around popular TV and film themes. ‘Game of Thrones’ tours have become hugely popular in Northern Ireland, while tours of the Scottish Highlands increased significantly following the release of the James Bond film Skyfall, much of which was set around Glencoe and nearby Glen Etive.
Likewise, offering deals on transport for popular festivals can lead to an uptick in the number of young adults using your service. With so many festivals around the UK, there’s no shortage of opportunities for coach hire businesses (just make sure you take a cleaning deposit before letting the revellers at Glastonbury back on your coach).
Marketing your services
Of course, in order to entice new passengers, you first have to reach them with your message. As mentioned above, the type of tour you’re looking to run will play a key role in defining the kind of passenger you hope to attract, and the same goes for the channels you use to engage with them.
For youth-oriented trips, social media channels like Twitter and Facebook can be a great way to find new customers. Online ad-platforms like Google Adwords can also play a key role in winning new customers, especially when combined with information garnered from analytics tools. By selecting specific regions and age groups based on the kind of visitors to your site, you can hone in on specific markets and increase your overall uptake.
Knowing when to market specific services is also crucial to optimise your reach. The summer season is one of the best times to push promotions for festival transport services. Look at the kinds of festivals and seasonal events on at different times. Visitors will usually search for transport services a few months in advance of the event, so make sure you have a marketing schedule in place well before the major dates.
For tours aimed at families, traditional media and online promotions are a dependable avenue of new custom. If your promotions can offer discounts for children under a certain age, you stand even more chance of being able to tempt parents away from using their own vehicles.
Image courtesy of Senior Living
Developing transport networks
With more UK tourists opting for a holiday in their own backyard, travel companies have an opportunity to experiment with new technologies in the pursuit of a truly unified travel experience. Coach companies, in particular, can benefit from developing relationships with other forms of transport to streamline journeys.
Multimodal travel, the unification of myriad transport modes under one easy to navigate system. For coach companies, the opportunity lies in linking up with local taxi firms, bike sharing companies and even sightseeing tours to provide additional transport in new cities and towns. In this way, passengers can explore further and utilise end-to-end transport. This approach isn’t just good news for the passenger. The relationships developed between different transport networks can be mutually beneficial for both sides of the business partnership. Local transport firms gain more custom from the passengers you bring in, while your coach tour benefits from providing a turnkey transport service.
Cultivating business partnerships
Just as partnerships with other transport networks can benefit your coach company, partnerships with local venues can play a part in building brand loyalty. Promotional deals on meals, attractions and accommodation add an extra incentive to passengers to book through you while enabling you to further curate the holiday experience. By creating relationships with trusted local businesses, coach companies can develop stronger relationships with their passengers while channelling more revenue into the local economy.
Of course, neither multimodal transport nor partnerships with local venues are limited to domestic tourists. But with tourists travelling from across the UK, this new trend for national holidays represents an opportunity to create a locally centred service that gives tourists a true reflection of the region while boosting the local economy.
Improving the environment
Just as domestic tourism is becoming a hot button in travel, sustainable tourism is finding a new audience. Travelling within the UK ticks many of the sustainable boxes, particularly if the traveller eschews air travel in favour of rail or road transport.
Of course, tourists and travel companies alike should strive to minimise their impact on a location, particularly if it’s a place of natural beauty. Coach tourism is one of the cleanest forms of transport. A coach carrying 50 passengers takes the place of more than 20 cars, freeing up space in car parks and improving travel times.
In order to successfully promote your coach service as an eco-friendly alternative to traditional transport, look at easily integrated technologies that can curb your vehicle’s emissions such as Selective Catalytic Reduction (SCR) units and Diesel Particulate Filters (DPF).
Domestic tourism represents a major opportunity for every type of transport in the UK. Increased tourism helps the local economy too, with domestic visitors on organised coach tours (day trips and overnight stays) spending £1.4 billion last year. If you’re willing to put in the time and effort to reach the new wave of staycationers, you too could reap the benefits of the domestic tourism boom.