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RDA Workshop delivers for coach tourism

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The Coach Tourism Council has agreed to work closely together with the German-based international tourism body RDA on international lobbying and research. The agreement was formally signed at the RDA Workshop held in Cologne last week by CTC chairman Sean Taggart and RDA president Richard Eberhardt.

“We have already forged strong links with CPT in the UK,” says Taggart, “and we see RDA as a strong partner in Europe. We can help each other on lobbying and work together on the important work of promoting the image of coach tourism.

“For me this agreement is just the first step with more to come in the future. It is so easy to just stay in your own country doing your own thing but we can develop much quicker together than separately.”

RDA is developing networks to support coach operator members with emergency breakdown assistance and is also planning to sign up to a star-rating system for coaches next year.

The RDA Workshop is the largest European exhibition dedicated to coach tourism and this year there were a number of new exhibitors among a total of 1,157, with trade visitors up 2.3 per cent at 11,237. The UK was represented once again by a group of exhibitors under the Kent banner who expanded on to a 40sq m stand this year with Eurotunnel, P&O Ferries, University of Kent and Dickens World joining previous exhibitors Medway, Canterbury Cathedral, English Heritage, Visit Kent and Hever Castle.

The Kent group started attending the RDA Workshop six years ago with Medway council’s Mary Sewell flying the flag, closely followed by Therese Heslop from Canterbury Cathedral. It has clearly brought dividends with increased group visits from German-speaking markets. Heslop points out that since the group started exhibiting at the Workshop regularly there has been stronger support from continental-based tour operators and wholesalers with Kent getting a strong showing in brochure packages from wholesalers who dominate the German coach tour market.

Hever Castle’s Anne Watt points to a significant rise in the number of German coaches visiting the venue with a 68 per cent rise in 2009/10. In March alone, Hever welcomed 104 German coach groups.

The UK group hopes to continue to expand at future RDA shows and Kent-based coach operator The Kingsferry visited this year with an eye to exhibiting at next year’s Workshop.

Other UK coach tour operators could certainly gain a great deal from visiting the show as it brings together a vast range of destinations, attractions, hotels and service suppliers from right across Europe, staffed by representatives who are entirely focussed on coach groups.

A recurring theme amongst exhibitors at this year’s show was specialist tours, with food featuring strongly. Italian wholesaler Michelangelo offers an entire brochure dedicated to eating your way around Italy by coach, and German-based Service Reisen has developed a range of cultural tours including one to Brussels featuring Erasmus and Magritte, targeted at groups participating in adult education and cultural classes..

Castles and gardens are always strong themes in German tour programmes and Service Reisen offers a number of new products in its Flanders brochure including a number of intensive green-fingered tours for dedicated gardeners.

With the wholesaler occupying a very important position in German-speaking markets, their brochures are a sight to behold with vast paginations in hardbound books seemingly offering everything an operator could need. Service Reisen supports its operators with a website product, Gmundo, that targets group organisers. Coach operators can buy into the service for a monthly fee giving them access to a large range of group tour products from the wholesaler’s brochure under their own company website brand. The mini website provides a full search facility for groups looking for specific destinations or themes with all the offers unpriced and enquiries directed straight to the operator to complete the deal. The aim of the product is to enable coach tour operators to extend the number and variety of products that they can offer, well beyond their main tour programme.

Next year’s RDA Workshop takes place in Cologne from  26-28 July 2011. Don't miss it!

Photo: RDA president Richard Eberhardt and CTC chairman Sean Taggart.

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