Awards highlight original thinking, innovation and exciting developments in coach tourism
Over 80 companies and organisations across the whole spectrum of UK coach tourism were recognised and rewarded for their excellence and good practice at the UK Coach Awards, which took place on Friday 27 March at London's prestigious Tower Hotel.
The event was timed to take place during British Tourism Week and to coincide with this week's Best of Britain and Ireland Travel Trade Forum at ExCeL in Docklands.
Amongst the prizewinners were coach operators and coach drivers who were nominated by their customers, via the UK's leading group travel magazine, Group Travel Organiser.
Outstanding winners were the Wolverhampton operator CoachChoice, who won a trio of awards. First the company won the title Coach Operator of the Year (Small Fleets). Then came good news for their long serving Driver Cass Winston Douglas who was named Coach Driver of the Year - a great prize for him, as he has been a PSV driver for over 40 years and this is his last year before retirement. The evening was completed when CoachChoice were named as Belmont International UK Coach Operator of the Year, based both on reader votes and a 'mystery shopper' exercise to test the company's customer friendliness.
The Coach Operator of the Year (Medium Fleets) title went to Essex based small firm Ruffles Coaches - a prize awarded to companies with between 11 and 50 vehicles. Coach Operator of the Year foir Large Fleets was named as Bowens, the Tamworth-based company that runs over 130 coaches under the Bowens, Jeffs and Applebys names.
The best practice in coach friendliness has been highlighted by readers of Coach & Bus Week magazine and industry experts. These are categories designed to highlight best practice amongst local authorities, tourist attractions, shopping attractions and service providers in welcoming coaches, their passengers and their drivers to venues all over the country. Top tourist attraction was theRoyal Yacht Britannia, with the Kent historic attraction at Hever Castle as runners up.
Sefton Borough Council was named Most Coach Friendly local authority for its outstanding service at Southport, with Medway and Salisbury named as joint runners up. The shopping attraction that was most coach friendly was named as Lancashire's OSwaldtwistle Mills, with Bury Market scooping the runners up prize, making it a "one-two" for the North West. Historic Royal Palaces was named as Best Information Provider for Coach Operators, with EnglishHeritage and the National Trust sharing the runners up prize.
There were prizes too for professionalism in specfic aspects of coach operation and management, for coach builders and for providers of support solutions such as software. Several people will also be honoured for their hard work in supporting the industry over many years.
UKCA director Chris Cheek said, “Our aim is to recognise the hard work, dedication and professionalism of a whole range of people and organisations involved in coach tourism around the country." The professionals recognised with awards on the night were Dave Fenton, Bob Pilbeam of CPT, Maurice Duckworth of First Rail Support and Christopher Vander of Towergate Chapman Stevens.
"The judges were really impressed,” said Chris. “There's original thinking, innovation and exciting developments going on all over the country – delivering what matters: better products and better trips for our customers. People really are working very hard, and deserve the recognition that our awards delivered on Friday night.”
The UK Coach Awards 2009 took place at the Tower Hotel. The evening was compered by BBC Breakfast's Carol Kirkwood and the awards themselves were presented by Wilben Short, Head of Transport, London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games and Paralympic Games. Entertainment was provided by illusionist Nigel Meade and the cast of the smash hit West End musical Mamma Mia.
Phil White, Associate Director at Belmont International, sponsor of the main UK Coach Operator of the Year award, said: “Looking at the quality of the UK Coach Awards it is very clear that, despite the economic downturn, the country’s coach sector remains committed to consistently delivering quality and service to their customers.
“As the leading insurance broker to the coach and bus industry, Belmont International is delighted to put its name to the awards and we would like to congratulate not only CoachChoice as Belmont International UK Coach Operator of the Year, but the other category winners and finalists, as well as each of the 100 firms who were nominated.”
NOTES FOR EDITORS
Further information on the awards – including the full results – can be found on this website.
The UK Coach Awards is run by an independent joint venture company established by Rouncy Media, publishers of Coach and Bus Week magazine, Landor Travel Publications publishers of Group Travel Organiser magazine, and 83A Projects, the company that organises the hugely successful UK Bus Awards, which has now been running for 14 years.