In this blog post we focus on coach travel and what features group travel organisers should be looking for when hiring a coach for a group trip.

We asked some of the coach companies exhibiting at the Group Leisure & Travel Show, and some group travel organisers, what exactly makes for a successful coach rental.

Charis Darby, the group travel manager at Buzzlines Travel, advised that the most important elements GTOs should consider when hiring a coach are vehicle size, coach facilities, safety aspects and the clarity of a coach hire quote.

“Our fleet ranges from eight to 59-seat vehicles so the most basic thing to consider would be making sure you have a vehicle that comfortably accommodates your group and any luggage they might have,” she said.

“All Buzzlines coaches are executive vehicles that have toilets and drink-making facilities on board but this won’t be the case with every company. If your coach didn’t have these it could affect your planning, as you might want to factor in additional comfort stops, for example. And when you receive a quote from a company, make sure you know exactly what has been included.”

On the topic of coach safety, Charis pointed out that some coaches have internal and external cameras and integrated telemetry so driving standards can be monitored.

She also advised choosing a Belt-Up School Kids (BUSK) campaign member, because it means you’ll know the coach operator has met a certain level of safety standards.

Robert Shaw, the co -founder and director of Harry Shaw had this advice for organisers:

“GTOs should establish the level of experience the coach operator has in dealing with groups, and look at the company’s website to see if it gives any indication of its client base.

“They should also enquire about the average age of the coach fleet, and see how long the company has been operating.”

In addition, Robert pointed out that if a company is operating its own programme of holidays, it’s a good indication that they are experienced in providing coaches for groups. Harry Shaw has over 50 years’ experience of coach and tour operating, and GLTS visitors can find out about the company’s group holidays in the UK, Europe and beyond by meeting them at the NEC in October.

Johnsons Coach & Bus Travel will also be exhibiting in the GLTS Coach Display Area. Amelia Bruce, who works for Johnsons, highlighted some the company’s features that might appeal to a group travel organiser.

“We are proud members of the Guild of British Coach Operators, which represents the UK’s top coach companies,” she said. “Membership is only open to coach operators who can demonstrate the highest standards in their operations, and we have been members since 2003.

“We have a dedicated group travel department specialising in tailor-made tours for all clubs, associations and groups, and have our own modern coach fleet and highly trained, friendly drivers.”

GTOs visiting Johnsons can find out more about their group benefits, including free GTO membership and group discounts.

Barclee Ferris-Edwards, business relationship executive for Ferris Holidays, pointed out that modern coach fleets have a wide range of facilities onboard, and GTOs can choose from features like DVD players, reclining seats, a PA system, hot water facilities and a fridge.

“The great thing about our fleet is that we can cater for groups of all sizes, right up to our largest vehicles which are 79-seat executive coaches,” said Barclee. “In fact, we currently have six 79-seat double-deck executive coaches and we’re hoping to have one of these on display at the GLTS in October. Pop along and climb on board!”

GTOs visiting the GLTS can chat to the Ferris Holidays team in the Coach Space and find out about everything – from USB ports to coach toilets – that this company has on offer.

And what do the group travel organisers themselves have to say on choosing a coach?

Lin Wilson, organiser for Solent Events & Leisure, said that she looks for a top quality executive coach when it comes to coach hire.

“A friendly owner and/or a manger with a positive attitude is important, as is a local guide. I like a recommendation from a colleague if possible. Most of all, customer-friendly, amenable and reliable coach drivers are important.”

Sylvia Saxon from Saxon Group Travel had similar advice.

“In my view, an easy going and agreeable driver is most important. Last December we had a wonderful driver from Berkley’s, and the most comfy of coaches, nobody wanted to get off, which was quite amazing after a long journey.”

Sylvia also highlighted the importance of coach cleanliness.