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Ep.40 Group travel and the coach tour market in 2024, with Steve Reed Tourism

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28 Mar, 2024

Group Travel: The state of the domestic group market in 2024, with Steve Reed Tourism

For many years, the domestic group travel or coach tour industry has been an important part of the UK’s tourism industry.

Groups have historically been guaranteed business for many tourism organisations with up to 50 people on a coach coming often during week day and shoulder periods.

However, because of the pandemic, hundreds of coach companies, many of which were well established, went out of business.

They lost their tourism customers and their daily school work, which to many was a massive part of their business.

Added to this, many of the older travellers were reluctant to travel, making it the perfect, devastating storm.

Despite the massive industry restructure, many coach companies survived. In 2023, the size of the coach and bus transport industry was worth £3.5 billion pounds, of which 22% was domestic coach company business, with inbound coach tours currently at around 11%.

So, should it be a market that we are looking at trying to attract? If so, how do we market to these people in 2024?

I have invited show group travel specialist Steve Reed from Steve Reed Tourism to talk to me about it.

We chat about:

> An overview of the industry and the different types of groups and buyers. 

> Steve explained how COVID devastated the industry, with many coach companies going bust due to lack of work. Older demographics were also reluctant to travel. Staycations helped recovery but staff shortages still impact the market. Innovation is now crucial to attract new customers.

> Steve recommended business set up a dedicated three-year action plan to systematically market to buyers. Print still has value, but shows, videos, email, and social media are now core to promotion. If the product is right, familiarisation trips can convert buyers. Key account meetings offer direct sales opportunities.

> Steve suggested creating an experience-led offering across all price points to serve varied interests. Luxury tours alongside standard products boost incomes. Bundling complementary attractions together simplifies trip planning. Events can be great group travel drivers particularly for shoulder periods, if marketed early. 

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