Record attendance at coach tourism event, says CTA

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The January CTA conference and workshop was the best yet, said CTA Chair Robert Shaw. CTA

The Coach Tourism Association (CTA) says it recorded its highest ever event attendance at its recent conference and workshop, with over 200 members making the trip to Newcastle for the annual event, which took place over the last weekend in January at the Hilton Newcastle Gateshead hotel. Attendees included 20 new members who attended the event for the first time.

The event’s formal business networking session also reached new heights, the CTA is pleased to report. Its ‘Meet the Buyer’ workshop saw 860 10-minute meetings take place between coach tour operators, wholesalers and industry suppliers, including attractions and hotels, an increase of 60 meetings on last year’s event, alongside numerous informal opportunities for networking which led to more new business agreements being confirmed.

“We believe the high visitor number was a result of the new fam trips on offer, combined with a format that enables operators and wholesalers to meet suppliers from across the whole supply chain, all at a single event,” said CTA Chair Robert Shaw. “The business development generated over the weekend also confirmed the value of participation from the hotels, attractions, and wider suppliers involved.”

The weekend included a a pre-event trip to the Auckland Project and a post-event two-day DFDS cruise to Amsterdam. The Conference weekend itself also included trips to Bamburgh Castle, Northumberland, as well as Raby Castle in County Durham, both locations having invested in facilities to encourage coach groups. A tour of Newcastle also featured, and while a destination in its own right, Newcastle and Gateshead are seeking to attract coach groups as an accommodation hub to explore Northumberland and County Durham.

During the Conference session, Ian Thomas, Director of Visitor Economy at the NewcastleGateshead Initiative, explained how North East England has been chosen as the first Destination Development Partnership towards the goal of doubling the region’s visitor economy over the next 10 years. Ian explained that coach tourism would be a valuable aspect, with a new travel trade initiative coming soon.

Deputy VisitEngland Director Lyndsey Turner Swift explained how the Destination Development Partnership would fit into the national programme. Lyndsey also reported on market prospects, saying that domestic visits were up in 2023, while giving a balanced forecast between domestic and overseas travel in 2024.

Carol Southall, Head of Staffordshire Business School, Staffordshire University, outlined a proposed research project, which will be carried out in conjunction with CTA and its members, to assess coach tourism volumes and value added as well as perceptions of the industry.

The Conference presentations are also reported to have instigated lively debate, and were chaired by CTA Board Member Louise Fitzpatrick of Albatross Travel. This included the challenge of broadening the coach tour market’s age demographic while maintaining product for the current customer core.
“Momentum is gathering for the need to develop new product, focusing on the customer experience for a broader generational span. This will increasingly be a focus for the market, and a key issue for CTA’s future discussions,” added Robert.

Brendan Sheerin, star of Channel 4’s Coach Trip series, gave an entertaining after-dinner talk on the first night of the Conference. He also hosted the evening’s fundraising event, which raised £2,000 for St. Oswald’s Hospice in the North East.

The next CTA event will be its spring networking event on 19-20 May, which will be held in Oxford.