Coach holidays are usually seen as the preserve of older retirees, heading to traditional British seaside resorts like Bournemouth and Blackpool. But the first ever national survey by the UK’s Coach Tourism Association has shown they’re becoming increasingly popular with a younger crowd, drawn to the bright lights of London or further afield into Europe.
I spoke to Paul Ovington from the CTA, who told me that over five million British people took a short break or longer holiday by coach last year. And he said the typical coach traveller is changing fast. “The baby boomer generation expects a lot more than generations in the past,” said Paul. “And of course that generation might be seventy but they think they’re only fifty. You have to work out how you’re going to appeal to them and get them on a coach.”
The survey showed that 40% of coach holidaymakers are now under 65-years-old and Paul told me this crowd enjoys new types of of trips. “Younger people like going to race days. You also get people going to spa days, which again appeals to a younger crowd.”
And while coach trips to the seaside are still very popular, Paul said more people are booking cultural and entertainment breaks. “Theatre trips to London are extremely popular. Coaches count for about 20% of people who go to London theatres so it’s a huge market for them. And again, going to see the big shows appeals to a lot of young people as well.”
Trips to see where your favourite TV show is made have been a huge success too. “Customers like to go on a tour of where Emmerdale is filmed. Older ones like the Last of the Summer Wine tours in Yorkshire, but literally any tours with a theme, like Morse in Oxfordshire, are still very popular.”
Paul told me that coach trips to Europe are also a popular choice, particularly around the festive season. “The Christmas markets still are a big draw and they attract thousands of people each year. But more people are going to the UK Christmas markets too.” And while the traditional tour destinations on the Continent remain high on people’s lists, he’s seeing more coach trips venturing further east. “A lot of operators still run two-week tours to the lakes in Italy or the Amalfi Coast,” said Paul. “But a lot now go to places like Croatia, Hungary and Poland as well as the traditional favourites in France and Spain.”
Although it’s easy to get cheap flights to Europe these days, Paul thinks the extra comfort of modern coaches wins a lot of people over. “These days it’s not like the coach that you might have used to get to swimming lessons at school,” he laughed. “It’s a vehicle costing upwards of £250,000 with reclining seats, air conditioning and extra legroom.”
Paul thinks coach holidays are still popular because many people like the idea of being looked after by, in effect, a personal chauffer. “They don’t have to look after tickets or passports because they’re on a coach where everything is taken care of. And they like the camaraderie they get on the trip. A lot of older people who might be widows and widowers get company that they might not get at home,” said Paul.
If you’d like to search for holidays operated by coach companies throughout the UK, check out the Coach Tourism Association’s website at FindaCoachHoliday.com.