The winners of these awards deliver consistently excellent customer service. The operators demonstrate their success through sustained effort.
They have shown that they:
- are financially sound
- maintain high operational and engineering standards
- give priority to the Health and Safety of staff and passengers through comprehensive risk management
- invest in their fleet and staff
- form effective partnerships
- identify with and respond to the communities they serve
- always strive to sustain and grow the market for coaches and coach services.
As well as this award for the medium operators of fleets between 21 and 50 vehicles, there are two others for businesses with fleets of 20 or fewer and over 50 vehicles.
From the winners of these three awards, the judges chose an overall winner, named UK Coach Operator of the Year.
For each of the categories, customer nominations were sought from group organisers and other industry clients. Nominated operators are also invited to submit further information to the judges. The judging process also includes 'mystery shopping' of the nominated operators to test their commitment to customer service.
Winner, Gold Award: Williams Coaches
Williams Coaches operates 32 coaches from a purpose built depot in Brecon on the borders of mid and south Wales. It employs 34 staff and has over 60 years experience of providing top quality coach travel, priding itself as being one of the leading coach operators in Wales. Throughout its history, Williams has always been committed to reinvesting profits and maintaining positive relationships with staff and customers, embracing industry advances and achieving the highest standards. The company works closely with the local authority providing transport for schools, the highways department and even 4x4 vehicles transporting nurses and carers during periods of heavy snow.
The judges spoke very highly of what they described as a solid submission that ticked every box. Williams is a family owned business that takes a great deal of pride in what they do and that values all its employees, with too many positive innovations to list. In fact the judges couldn't find any faults and had no hesitation in making the company a very worthy gold winner.
Winner, Silver Award: Woods Travel
Now in its 48th year, Woods Travel of Bognor Regis continues to provide quality transport to its customers in Sussex and the surrounding areas. It all began in 1971 and two London entrepreneurs, Roger Elsmere and Bill Wood, with two taxis. The business now boasts 15 luxury vehicles, employs 49 staff and takes over 6,000 people on coach holidays each year. Woods is also a fully independent ABTA travel agency, provide a comprehensive day excursion programme, and a private hire service for local groups and schools. The company's commitment to offer the highest level of quality and service is proven by over 75% of its customers having either already travelled with Woods, or been recommended by existing customers. New customers have been reached through social media, sponsorships, and recent award success. This, together with investment in its fleet, has maintained Woods popularity in an increasingly competitive industry.
The judges were pleased to see another good entry from Woods, which they commented shows the company maintains a consistently high standard. All staff are trained to a high standard with drivers receive safeguarding training as well as an emergency first aid course. The panel particularly noted the introduction of a Vulnerable Customer Policy and that all customer facing staff were due to undertake Dementia Awareness training in the first quarter of this year.
Winner, Bronze Award: Maynes Coaches
Maynes Coaches of Buckie in Scotland is a family owned business that has traded successfully since 1947. The outstanding success of the company, operating in a highly competitive market, is founded on providing a high quality, high value service. Maynes has over 50 employees and a fleet of around 40 vehicles, with regular vehicle investments every year. Celebrating over 70 years in an extremely competitive industry, the company believes its success is down to the hard work and dedication that all its team members exhibit. Maynes has built an enviable reputation making its customers return year on year.
Maynes was picked out by the judges as being a top quality and professional operation in a remote area. The panel noted how highly the company values it employees and was impressed with the range of different social media platforms it uses.
Finalist: Alfa Travel
Chorley based Alfa Travel is part of the Alfa Leisureplex Group, which comprises 20 hotels and is also a tour and coach holiday operator running holidays in the UK, Ireland and Europe. The group employs over 700 people, and uses a fleet of Mercedes Euro VI coaches to carry over 100,000 passengers a year. Ten new Mercedes coaches will be delivered this year. Alfa is employee owned, which it believes produces more commitment to delivering a quality customer experience and higher standards of customer service. Its employee owners work together as one team to provide its customers with the very best service to ensure they have an enjoyable holiday.
Finalist: Anthony's Travel
When it comes to coach hire, Runcorn based Anthony's Travel describes itself as 'simply the best'. It's one of the most recognised brands in the coach industry and the company is passionate, not just for coaches, but for the complete experience, be it the quality of the coaches, its work in the community, embracing new technology, social media, and its drive to remain at the forefront of coach travel. Not just a coach company, Anthony's is an award winning SME supporting the community in which it trades. The company aims to provide its clients with the best possible customer experience through its professional, family approach.
Finalist: Bluebird Coaches
Bluebird Coaches is based in Weymouth, and has been a family run company since 1924. The fourth generation of the family has kept abreast of the latest trends in the coach industry, changing to suit the requirements and expectations of its customers. Its IT systems facilitate online bookings and quotations for private hire, but Bluebird also prides itself on the personal touch and welcomes visitors to its premises. Telephones are manned 24/7 and staff are always happy to talk to customers. The website, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram pages are kept up to date with the latest news about the company, special offers and pictures of vehicles and groups travelling about the UK and Europe. Customers are encouraged to share their own pictures on social media.
Finalist: Crosskeys Coaches
Crosskeys is a family run independent business based in Folkestone. The company was set up in 1973 with a couple of coaches promoting day trips in the local area. Forty years on, Crosskeys has a fleet of more than 24 coaches and 38 staff offering private coach hire for groups, schools, businesses and private customers. Priding itself in offering outstanding customer service, Crosskeys also runs an ABTA bonded independent travel agency, so the company can book all sorts of trips, be it a day excursion, British or Continental coach holiday or a tailor-made holiday of a life time to anywhere in the world. Crosskeys is heavily involved in the community by supporting local charities, sports outlets and sponsoring local outstanding sports people.
Who could be nominated?
The awards were open to all operators of coaches for hire to the general public or used on tours and excurions.
... and by whom?
Group organisers and other clients who hire coaches on an occasional or regular basis were asked to nominate the coach company which has delivered the best service to their groups. Self-nomination was also acceptable.