Coach Holiday Conference A Big Success

More than 180 delegates helped to make the 2016 CTC Coach Holiday Conference & Workshop at the Holiday Inn, Stratford upon Avon, a great success with operators and industry suppliers coming from across the UK, as well and from France and Holland.

Helen Peters, CEO of Shakespeare’s England, welcomed everyone to the home of the famous poet and playwright, William Shakespeare, and explained why they should visit Stratford to celebrate the 400th anniversary of his death this year.

Delegates were given two great presentations by marketing and brand guru, Sid Madge of the Mad Hen Consultancy, and a social media overview from Hoda Lacey of Hoda Lacey Consulting. There were more than 700 appointments for suppliers to have one-to-one meetings at the popular CTC Workshop.

Gavin Davies of new member Groups Direct said: “What a great weekend – it was super productive for us. Coach operators were extremely receptive and we even walked away with firm bookings.” Representing the younger face of coach tourism, Ross Young of Spot Travel in Kent, said: “Another enjoyable and worthwhile event from the CTC.”

Unlock Your Brand Values’

Operators were urged to ask themselves ‘why they create coach holidays’ as a key to ‘unlocking’ their brand values. Sid Madge of Mad Hen told delegates at the 2016 Conference to look again at their marketing and set aside messages that tell customers ‘how’ they run tours and ‘what’ they do for their customers and instead, begin by telling their market ‘why’ they are in the holiday business.

He said that strong branding delivers value, both for the customer and for the bottom line: “You need to ask yourself: ‘Are people paying more money for my brand?’ and if not, why not?” He said that strong branding had allowed Coca-Cola to demand a premium for flavoured water.

The strength of good brands, he said, could even subsume the core product. He said Harley Davidson now made 40 per cent of its profit from licensing the Harley Davidson logo to other products. In a similar vein he told how Jaguar, despite its strong brand, had managed to tap into a new market of upwardly mobile consumers, having been seen as an old man’s brand for many years.

Sid strongly urged coach operators to include video in their online marketing materials: “A 60-second video can do more for your marketing than your entire website. People love to see video.” He also urged operators to make the most of social media such as Facebook, illustrating its power with the story of a one-woman business which spent £64 on a Facebook campaign and got such a huge business return that she had to employ two people to cope with demand.

“Look carefully at the words you use in your marketing,” he said. “Are you really selling coach holidays, or are they holidays by coach?” He explained that far too much advertising and marketing of coach holidays focused on the features of the product and too little on the benefits; for example, mentioning door-to-door pick-ups ‑ without saying this means not having to handle heavy suitcases: “You have to look at your product and ask yourself ‘Where are the benefits?’ and then explain these to the consumers first.”

‘Social Media – Be In It To Win It’

Social media expert Hoda Lacey cautioned coach holiday operators against selling products through social media and explained they should use Facebook, for example, to ‘humanise’ their brands. “Social media is a term used to describe any tool or service on the Internet used to facilitate conversation,” she said. “Most people do not like being sold to on social media.”

She outlined the demographic of people using social media and said that some channels such as Facebook were increasingly being used by the over 50s. She said the users of social media could be roughly divided into ‘digital visitors’ who go into social media with a particular task in mind, and ‘digital natives’ who routinely spend large amounts of time on social networks: “Many younger users are now living their lives online,” she said.

To get the best from social media, she set out a five-point plan:

  • Decide what you want to achieve.
  • Create your customer persona, or avatar.
  • Humanise your brand.
  • Choose your social media channels.
  • Then analyse your results and adapt your approach.

Hoda suggested operators focus on raising awareness and encouraging loyalty through social media, then capturing the data of visitors, but not selling anything through social media: “Look at the singer Adele’s social media; no mention of selling, but her social media feeds back into her website, on which there are things to buy. It’s very subtle.”

She also suggested that all coach holiday operators should create a customer profile – a highly focused profile of the typical customer, which may include their age, sex, hobbies, financial situation, their aspirations and even their names – and to ensure staff know who this is. Hoda explained: “This will make a huge amount of difference to your marketing. It will mean your marketing ‘voice’ is speaking to one customer and will make for a more authentic conversation.”

Hoda said operators who restricted themselves to one kind of customer were making a mistake. She said it was not true that only ‘old people’ take coach holidays, citing the example of Kontiki and backpacker brands like Busabout Tours, which carry huge numbers of young people. For each market she said, you need a different approach and a different customer profile.

Like Sid, she asserted that video was ‘king’ on the Internet and singled out videos created by Greys of Ely and Johnsons Coaches as great examples of video content which can boost the operator’s image online. Summing up, she warned that placing a company on social media demands that it develop a ‘rhino skin’ because it exposes the operation to comments – both good and bad. n

Almost 40 prizes were donated by members for the Conference dinner raffle which helped raise £1,200 for this year’s CTC charity – www.somethingtolookforwardto.org – which has been set up by the CTC’s IT consultant Andy Coldron and his wife Fiona Medley. Many members also gave the charity day trips, theatre tickets and hotel stays to help those affected by cancer to get away.