Older travellers looking for low-cost touring with someone to hold their hand might still form the backbone of the coaching market, but operators are increasingly reaching out to a younger audience.
Alongside the well-worn routes to the Italian Lakes, castles in Spain and Norwegian fjords, many brochures now feature itineraries tailored around rock festivals and sporting events, and visit destinations that are popular with backpackers.
“The core market is still the older traveller,” said WA Shearings senior consumer marketing co-ordinator Kate Bostock. “But there are more and niches for young people.
“With former Eastern Bloc countries joining the European Union it’s now much easier for us to feature destinations such as Poland, the Czech Republic and Moscow.
“We are also targeting grandparents who want to take their grandchildren out to places such as Legoland, or London theatre breaks.”
Coach Tourism Council chief executive Chris Wales said agents should have no problem selling coaching holidays to younger people.
“Coach tours are relaxing, fun and offer excellent value, with local departure points making them really convenient.”
So what products are available for young people wanting to go on a coaching holiday?
With the Glastonbury festival taking a break this year, Leger Holidays is offering an alternative with a coach tour to Serbia’s highly acclaimed Exit 2006 rock music festival. Some 600 acts, including Franz Ferdinand, the Pet Shop Boys, the Cardigans and Suzanne Vega will take to the stage at the historic Petrovaradin Fortress, overlooking the River Danube.
Priced at £299 per person, the nine-day coaching package includes one night of coach travel in each direction, one night’s two-star accommodation in Budapest on the way out, four nights’ campsite accommodation at the festival in Novi Sad and one night’s accommodation in a two-star Cologne hotel on the return journey to the UK. An upgrade to accommodation at the Student City University Complex in Belgrade during the festival, including coach transfers, costs £100.
Also available is the Exit and Cool Capitals package, which visits 10 capitals including Belgrade, Budapest, Prague, Berlin and Brussels, as well as the festival. Prices lead in at £599 per person.
Something more mainstream: Whittle Coach and Bus in Kidderminster offers tickets to see Evita, Dirty Dancing, or The Lion King in London with one night’s bed-and-breakfast accommodation at the four-star Riverbank Park Plaza Hotel overlooking the Thames for £139 per person.
A drive along part of the Monaco Grand Prix circuit is included in this Insight Vacations coaching package, part of the company’s Easy Pace programme designed for younger audiences. The package is especially suited to those wanting flexibility and time to explore, combined with the comfort and convenience of an escorted tour.
Prices start at £1,230 per person and include return scheduled flights from the UK, luxury coach travel with extra legroom, daily buffet breakfasts, five dinners and first-class hotel accommodation throughout.
Racing certainty: Ulsterbus Tours offers a four-day/three-night coach tour from Northern Ireland to this year’s British Grand Prix at Silverstone in June, staying at the Hilton in Leicester, for £449 per person.
Unaccompanied travel through Russia remains a daunting prospect, even for adventurous youngsters. This 16-day WA Shearings tour aboard a luxurious Grand Tourer coach, with half-board accommodation in three and four-star hotels, is a good-value alternative for those who have progressed beyond backpacking. Costing £1,185 per person, the itinerary includes guided city tours of Warsaw, Minsk, Moscow, Novrogod and St Petersburg, the latter taking in the fabulous Hermitage museum. Also included is a Helsinki to Stockholm mini cruise.
Freedom of Europe: Eurolines’ scheduled coach services connect 500 cities across the UK, Ireland and the continent – including many fascinating destinations in Eastern and Central Europe. A great value Eurolines Youth Pass, giving unlimited travel over a 15 or 30-day period for £159 and £245 respectively, is a cost-effective way for the under-25s to see more of this part of the world.
The Ritz Hotel, where it all began; the Denon Wing of the Louvre; the Church of Saint- Sulpice, where Silas went in search of the Holy Grail – these and other sites from the controversial novel feature in this new Gold Crest itinerary.
With the movie due for release in May demand is strong for this £179-per-person package. There are 300 UK departure points and three nights’ bed-and-breakfast accommodation in a two or three-star hotel is included. A guided walking tour and entry into the Louvre are also included, and excursions and evening events are available at extra cost.
Another side of Paris: Edwards Coach Holidays, with departures across South Wales, has a four-day/ three-night trip to the classic Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe horse race, with overnight accommodation in a two-star Paris hotel, departing September 29 for £159 per person.
The steady demise of the last few war veterans has created a changing profile among visitors to the key battle sites. Among them, students, writers and photographers are finding an inspiring source of material.
Leger Holidays offers a five-night package from £219 per person, with two or three-star hotel bed-and-breakfast accommodation. There are 400 joining points in the UK, with departures running until October 23.
Included are evocative visits to remaining trenches, No-Man’s Land, war graves and many memorials – including the British memorial at Thiepval, one of Britain’s largest memorials to its war dead.
Less time: Goldentours Grayline London offers a day trip via the Eurostar to Lille to the Somme battlefields for £119 per person. Coach travel in France and visits to sites such as Vimy Ridge and Lochnagar Crater are included.