cta summer networking 23 members at hatfield house 1

Coach Tourism Association (CTA) members discussed the prospects for zero-emission coaches operating coach tours at the organisation’s recent Summer Networking event in Hertfordshire. Nearly 100 delegates heard presentations on the latest developments in ZE (zero emission) coaches, including both new vehicles and retrofit. While there are challenges in terms of vehicle range, charging infrastructure, and adequate luggage space for passengers, there was a willingness from operators, attractions, and hotel members to push forward with a trial of a next generation electric coach, due to arrive in the UK by late 2023/early 2024.

The event was held on Sunday 23 and Monday 24 July at the DoubleTree by Hilton London Elstree hotel, and was sponsored by Visit Herts, and CTA Partner VisitScotland.

The CTA staged the zero-emission coach seminar to help members, including operators as well as industry suppliers, start to prepare for the transition ahead. Though the government is still to set an end date for the sale of non-zero-emission coaches, the event aimed to further the discussion.

Ian Downie, Head of Yutong at Pelican, the UK distributor of Yutong electric coaches, explained that the manufacturer has 39 vehicles in service across the UK. Ian gave a preview of the upcoming Yutong GTe14 coach, featuring a 300-mile range, and also offered CTA operator members a trial of the new vehicle. CTA will provide members with more details in the coming months. Ian Foley, Managing Director of Equipmake, then presented the opportunity for electric repowering of coaches, claiming a possible saving of £45,000 per year in diesel and maintenance costs.

“The seminar generated strong engagement from our members about the zero-emissions vehicle transition,” says CTA Chair, Robert Shaw. “We all accept - the manufacturers included - that challenges remain, and we all need to work together to find solutions. CTA is in a unique position to help meet these challenges, with our reach across the whole sector. The solutions will require strong cooperation to ensure we have charging possibilities for electric vehicles, and it was good to hear that our attraction and hotel members are keen to work with operators to address the challenges ahead.”

CTA Summer Networking also included a fam trip of Hatfield House, with travel to the attraction courtesy of Three Star Coaches. The visit, which included a tour of the historic property and its gardens, has already generated new bookings with a large coach operator now due to stage a tour of Hatfield for the first time.

Returning to the hotel, delegates engaged with suppliers from Hertfordshire while enjoying pre-dinner gin samples, courtesy of Puddingstone Distillery. A networking dinner also presented the opportunity for new conversations between industry buyers and suppliers, with post-dinner drinks sponsored by Irish Ferries.

On Monday, the ZE-coach transition seminar was followed by a CTA Supplier Member Showcase, giving operators and wholesalers the opportunity to learn more about new products and services.

“We were delighted to stage CTA Summer Networking at our Elstree hotel,” says Hayley Goodwin, Sales Director, M&T Hotel Management, that manages the Double Tree by Hilton London Elstree. “Coach tours are high on our agenda, particularly as the area has such a wealth of opportunity for group travel, from Elstree Studio tours, to the county’s historic houses. We’re always excited to talk to coach tour operators about the range of hotels and offers we have available.”

“It was extremely satisfying to hear all of the positive feedback following the visit to Hatfield House, as well as great conversations that followed with the Hertfordshire attractions and industry suppliers,” says Deirdre Wells, Visit Herts. “While the highlights of Hertfordshire and its screen tourism opportunities are well known to many coach tour operators, CTA Summer Networking was a fabulous occasion to showcase the full variety of hidden gems, accommodation, and experiences for year-round group travel.”

Full details soon of attendance at CTA’s next event, Winter Networking 2023, on 19-20 November in Exeter, will be available soon on coachtourismassociation.co.uk

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