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The role of the coach in the economy: Summary

This is a summary of the findings from a study of the role of the coach in the economy, carried out for the Confederation of Passenger Transport UK by David Simmonds Consultancy and Cambridge Policy Consultants. Much of our study has concentrated on the role of non-scheduled coaches in carrying people on day trips and holidays. These are provided by a very large number of firms, predominantly small firms which mix regular contract and other private hire operations with some trips and tours which they promote themselves. The industry does however include some large-scale operators specialising in tours. Coach tours are also offered by tour companies which contract the coach element from other firms.

National economic effects

We estimate from national surveys that in 1998 British residents made

  • 4.2 million coach tours (one or more nights away) by non-scheduled coach, staying 15.8 million nights away from home and spending a total of £643 million

  • 36.2 million day trips from home by non-scheduled coach, spending £844 million.

In addition, 1.6 million overseas visitors arrived in Britain by coach, staying a total of 13.1 million nights and spending £396 million. The total expenditure associated with UK travel on these non-scheduled and overseas coach operations in 1998 was at least £1883 million. 20% of this was spent on travel (mainly on the coach travel itself).

Other tourism activities for which we do not have expenditure figures include:

  • UK coach trips and tours taken by overseas visitors who arrived by modes other than coach

  • coach excursions taken by UK residents during a holiday for which their main mode of travel was not coach

  • airport-to-hotel or hotel-to-conference centre shuttles, etc, particularly for overseas visitors.

Adding expenditure associated with just the first of these would almost certainly take the total to over £2000 million.

We estimate that the more directly measured £1883 million supported at least 79,000 full- and part-time UK jobs, equivalent to over 58,000 full-time jobs. Of these

  • 55,000 jobs (nearly 38,000 full-time equivalent) were in the firms which directly received the tourists - and trippers - money (including the coach operators)

  • 24,000 jobs (21,000 full-time equivalents) were created by those firms and their workers buying additional goods and services from other firms, and so on.

Local effects and issues

We have examined a sample of Case Study areas where non-scheduled coach tourism was thought to be significant. This confirmed that such tourism is a major source of jobs in resorts such as Blackpool (over 2500 jobs, nearly 2000 full-time equivalent) or Bournemouth (nearly 1,800 jobs or 1,300 full-time equivalent).

The dependence of coach tours on hotel accommodation means that non-scheduled coach tourists spend more per visit or per night than the average for all tourists - despite many coach tourists being retired, and most coach holidays designed to offer low prices. The economic impact of coach tourists who stay overnight is greater than that of day visitors.

The benefits of coach tourism are further increased by the fact that it is less seasonal than the majority of tourist activity. It therefore creates hotel and catering jobs in many resorts at times of the year when staff would otherwise have to be laid off. Some resorts resent their dependence on the coach industry, but the underlying problem here is the diversion of traditional family seaside holidays to overseas destinations in warmer climates. Without the coach industry, many British resorts would be in even greater difficulties.

In principle, most local authorities favour the use of coaches because they reduce dependence on private cars, and so help to reduce atmospheric pollution and provide access to leisure opportunities for those who are unable to use cars. In practice, their attitude to incoming coaches is prejudiced by their perception of a very large vehicle, blocking the traffic, the view or both. They also perceive coach passengers as spending very little money. Operators surveyed complained of unsympathetic attitudes from many authorities (and scheduled operators made similar points); most were also resentful of any arrangements involving charges for parking, booking of spaces or similar requirements. Certain authorities complained in return of drivers who refused to observe restrictions on dropping off or picking up passengers, on parking, and so on.


We found that:

  • non-scheduled coach travel is a substantial industry, effectively controlling the destination of around two billion pounds of tourist expenditure per year and supporting some 80,000 jobs

  • non-scheduled coach travel is a major employer in certain destinations, helping to sustain some of Britain's traditional resorts

  • the industry is highly fragmented, with many small firms

  • decisions about non-scheduled coach trips and tours are made by an even more fragmented range of coach operators, tour operators, and private group organisers, with resulting limitations on the response to conditions at destinations.


With regard to provision for non-scheduled coaches, we suggested that CPT should press for:

  • local authorities to keep in mind the economic and environmental benefits of coach activity, and the negative impacts of restricting coaches as well as any potential benefits to traffic flow or amenity

  • local authorities to consider whether their attitudes to coaches, and hence to their often elderly and sometimes infirm passengers, are fair and consistent with their declared policies towards the less mobile and less wealthy;

  • local authorities to recognise that any attempt to influence the destination of coaches needs to be planned and publicised to the relevant decision-makers (not just coach operators) before trip and tour programmes are planned

  • coach operators to recognise first that some communities may decide that they wish to exclude coaches altogether, or to ration the number entering particular areas, and secondly that traffic and parking management schemes involving payment, booking or other formalities (for example, to identify whether coaches are carrying pensioners or school-children) are likely to become more common and will require more professional management arrangements

  • general recognition of the environmental and economic merits of non-scheduled coaches offering more flexible travel possibilities than scheduled public transport.


1 December 1999

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