The trend for ‘staycations’ – and the idea of an easy, affordable way to tour the UK and Europe’s favourite places without having to drive – is making coach holidays ever more popular. They’re among Newmarket Holidays’ most successful holiday types and we have a wide variety on offer, so we caught up with the people behind them – our Product Director Teresa Taylor and Product Manager Sonja Okpu.
How long have you been Product Managers, and prior to this, what was your travel industry background?
TT: 30 years along with other things. Before that I worked for Stardust Mini Holidays and before that for a hotel company.
SO: 6 years with Newmarket but prior to that I worked with the Disney product and brand for 15 years, which has helped give me an eye for detail. I’ve also worked for a coach wholesaler and for hotels.
What makes a good coach holiday product? How do you choose them?
TT: Having a mix of things to see and do, and where possible, a mix of indoor and outdoor attractions in case the weather’s bad. We get ideas for holidays from a variety of sources, such as suggestions, TV programmes and topical events. When the Royal Yacht Britannia was decommissioned, for example, we began tours to Edinburgh to see her. More recently, we heard that they were opening the Coronation Street set. Railway journeys are also always good on coach holidays because you only need to travel in one direction. The coach will pick you up and you can go a different route home – think the Wise Men!
SO: As we have to work so far in advance for the majority of our tours, our eyes and ears always have to be open. Together with our experience, this helps us to predict what customers will want in 12-18 month’s time. Having great relationships with our suppliers and partners is also essential to developing new ideas and bringing them to life.
Which are your favourite Newmarket coach breaks?
TT: The Edinburgh Tattoo is really fab. There’s a lot of travelling if you live in the South/Southwest, but it’s well worth it because the event is unique. Also, I love the Royal Albert Hall concert breaks – it’s such a very special venue.
SO: In Europe, it would have to be our Monet’s Gardens and Paris tour . It’s incredible value for money when you consider everything that it includes and it’s a tour for which we get consistently good reviews. In the UK, dare I say that my heart lies with our flower show tours? I love going to check these out each year and they’ve helped me discover my green fingers!
What are your travel tips?
TT: Don’t take too much luggage – and always travel in flat, comfortable shoes and loose clothing.
SO: Organising a holiday isn’t always as easy as it looks, so my top tip would be to let someone else do all the hard work for you and just sit back, relax and enjoy – et voila!
Finally, what new tours can we look forward to in the future?
TT: We’re doing an overnight break to a new Elvis exhibition at the 02 which will feature over 300 artefacts direct from Graceland. I think it’ll be fascinating whether or not you’re an Elvis fan.
SO: I’m really excited about Longleat in 2015, both for summer and winter. For summer we have a tour that includes Longleat’s House, Gardens and Safari Park, plus a gorgeous scenic tour of the Cotswolds and time in the beautiful city of Bath. Then for next winter we’re doing an amazing Christmas at Longleat and Salisbury’s Christmas Market tour. It combines Longleat’s ‘Festival of Light’ with a visit to Salisbury, which is stunning. Both have so much to see and do!