Road warriors move up a gear

Road warriors move up a gear

Australia - 1998 saw 467,535 arrivals, a 7.2% increase on 1997 which looks set to continue for this year - could account for some of the extra business.

But tour operators agree that improvements in the product itself and changes in the way it's perceived are winning an increasing market share.

"Unfortunately coach travel has an image of the blue rinse brigade piling on and off a coach all day and being encouraged to sing 'She'll be coming round the mountain'," said Sunbeam Tours sales manager UK and Europe Tanya Borowski.

"The reality is now very different and we have adapted our product to make it more flexible and move with the times. We recognise that what the consumer wants is value for money, a quality product and some independence while on holiday."

Tour operator AAT Kings, which offers a wide range of escorted group tours and an expanding independent tour range, has recently changed its image.

"Our coaches have been redecorated by an Aboriginal design company to reflect that our holidays are far removed from the traditional coach holiday with many tours centred around Aboriginal culture," said AAT Kings director of sales UK and Europe, Allister Bruce.

Although business for escorted tours has risen by nearly 40%, sales for independent tours, which allow clients to put together short trips and day tours, have also gone through the roof, according to Bruce.

Many other operators are report a similar trend with strong demand for flexible or shorter tours.

Australian Pacific Tours launched its first dedicated Northern Territory Short Break brochure recently offering trips of one to seven days.

And Australian Pinnacle Tours reports bookings for its short-break packages are higher than ever, with people preferring to link modules to create a more personal itinerary.

While coach holidays have traditionally been perceived as appealing to the older age group or youth markets, these shorter duration tours are attracting clients in this age bracket.

Connections has gone one step further launching Connection Plus for the over 35s two years ago.

"People in their 40s and 50s still want soft adventure rather than an armchair tour. We've been astounded by the response," said Connections Plus sales manager UK and Europe, Kaye Thomas.

One of the key selling points of all coach tours is the value for money. Most include top-quality accommodation, sightseeing, transport and some meals.

And all operators emphasise that time actually spent on the coach nowadays is kept to a minimum allowing plenty of opportunity to explore onfoot.

Coach travel in Australia is shaking off its blue rinse brigade image and appealing to an increasing number of people of all ages who view it as a fun, economic and convenient way of seeing the country.

Despite continued promotion of self-drive holidays, coach operators say business is growing; with some operators claiming a 40% rise on last year.

The growth in UKvisitors to Australia - 1998 saw 467,535 arrivals, a 7.2% increase on 1997 which looks set to continue for this year - could account for some of the extra business.

But tour operators agree that improvements in the product itself and changes in the way it's perceived are winning an increasing market share.

"Unfortunately coach travel has an image of the blue rinse brigade piling on and off a coach all day and being encouraged to sing 'She'll be coming round the mountain'," said Sunbeam Tours sales manager UK and Europe Tanya Borowski.

"The reality is now very different and we have adapted our product to make it more flexible and move with the times. We recognise that what the consumer wants is value for money, a quality product and some independence while on holiday."

Tour operator AAT Kings, which offers a wide range of escorted group tours and an expanding independent tour range, has recently changed its image.

"Our coaches have been redecorated by an Aboriginal design company to reflect that our holidays are far removed from the traditional coach holiday with many tours centred around Aboriginal culture," said AAT Kings director of sales UK and Europe, Allister Bruce.

Although business for escorted tours has risen by nearly 40%, sales for independent tours, which allow clients to put together short trips and day tours, have also gone through the roof, according to Bruce.

Many other operators are report a similar trend with strong demand for flexible or shorter tours.

Australian Pacific Tours launched its first dedicated Northern Territory Short Break brochure recently offering trips of one to seven days.

And Australian Pinnacle Tours reports bookings for its short-break packages are higher than ever, with people preferring to link modules to create a more personal itinerary.

While coach holidays have traditionally been perceived as appealing to the older age group or youth markets, these shorter duration tours are attracting clients in this age bracket.

Connections has gone one step further launching Connection Plus for the over 35s two years ago.

"People in their 40s and 50s still want soft adventure rather than an armchair tour. We've been astounded by the response," said Connections Plus sales manager UK and Europe, Kaye Thomas.

One of the key selling points of all coach tours is the value for money. Most include top-quality accommodation, sightseeing, transport and some meals.

And all operators emphasise that time actually spent on the coach nowadays is kept to a minimum allowing plenty of opportunity to explore onfoot.

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