Call our Sales Team on 0208 912 2120

Record Year for S.U.T. Tours

17th June 1955, Page 42
17th June 1955
Page 42
Page 43
Page 44
Page 42, 17th June 1955 — Record Year for S.U.T. Tours
Noticed an error?
If you've noticed an error in this article please click here to report it so we can fix it.

Which of the following most accurately describes the problem?

By Andrew Seacombe

DURING the past seven years the coach has wrought a . revolution in the holiday habits of many thousands of people living within a wide radius of the prosperous steel city of Sheffield. From carrying only 64 passengers on Continental tours in 1948, Sheffield United Tours, Ltd., the largest of the 40 or more coach concerns in the area, expect to reach a record of more than 5,000 during the current season. Extended tours run by the company in Britain are even more popular, and they are expected to draw some 10,000 patrons during 1955.

Continental tours this year range in duration from seven to 20 days, and embrace Austria, JrIolland, Belgium, France, Spain, Switzerland, Germany and Denmark. Innovations include two coach-air tours. one to Paris and Brussels and the other to Montreux and Champery.

On both these tours, S.U.T. vehicles are used only as far as Manchester Airport; on leaving the aeroplane at Ostend (for the Paris tour) and Geneva (for Montreux), the passengers board locally based coaches owned by Blue Cars Continental Coach Cruises, Ltd., which are taken over by the S.U.T. drivercourier in charge of each party.

In Britain, S.U.T. are offering 23 different tours. These range from a two-day trip to 131ackpool Illuminations to 12-day holidays to Scotland and to the South Coast, Devon and Cornwall.

Booking and charting facilities for all S.U.T. tours are located at the company's offices at Pond Hill, adjacent to the municipal bus station. There is another office in Union Street, but this is confined to excur= sions, express services and jirivate hire. There, tour bookings are handled in a similar manner to that of the company's agents in 35 towns in Lancashire, Yorkshire, Derbyshire, Lincolnshire, Leicestershire, Nottinghamshire, Durham and London.

Planning for the present season's tours began last July. It was then that a decision, based on experience gained during the current and earlier seasons, was taken on what tours would he run this year. Once tour and route schedules were decided. hotels were provisionally chosen from comprehensive files kept by a department specially devoted to this important aspect of touring, and their names entered in pencil on the tentative itinerary for the tour.

For obvious reasons, hotels are given six-day bookings whenever possible, and this matter is taken into account when tours are being decided. An example of such a booking this year is shown in two seven-day tours to Bournemouth and Torquay.

While passengers on one tour stay at the-Channings Hotel, Torquay, on the first three nights and at the , Bourne Hall Hotel, Bournemouth, on the next three, passengers on the companion tour spend their first three nights at the Bournemouth hotel and the next three .at Torquay.

The standard of hotels chosen is high, the quality grading never being less than the Automobile Association's three stars, or its equivalent

where no recognized classification , exists. Where a tour is breaking new ground • for S.U.T.—and that is rare these days—information about hotels en route is usually obtainable from other tour operators in the British Electric Traction .group, with which the company are associated.

The number of hotels that refuse to accept tour bookings is diminishing each year. S.U.T. help to break down resistance by ensuring a socially high standard of patron, for the company keep their own black list of " undesirables."

Et is not the practice for a member of the stiff to make a special visit to an hotel being used for the first time. On the Continent, where it is not always easy to judge the standards of an hotel from afar, the co-operation of hoteliers known to the company is often sought, invariably to their satisfaction.

A check on hotels is also kept from information supplied by passengers. At the end of a tour, all passengers arc handed a form on which they are asked to list, in their order of preference, their opinion of the hotels at which they have stayed. If an establishment consistently appears at the bottom of the list, an alternative is, if possible, booked the next season.

This form also asks passengers to comment on the tour and provides useful information for inclusion in publicity material. The response to the request to complete the form is as high as 70-80 per cent. In case a passenger should not complete it before he leaves the coach, it is addressed and designed to fold ready for posting to Pond Hill.

By August, arrangements for tours have been completed and a "rooming list" has been dispatched to all hotels provisionally booked. A perforated confirmation slip, giving details of the type and number of rooms required and the dates, is completed by the hotels and returned to S.U.T. When this is received, the pencilled name of the hotel in the tour itinerary is inked in and road service licences are applied for.

Special forms are also designed for cancelling hotel bookings and to solicit additional accommodation to cover the cancellations when replacements are found for the passengers who have dropped out. These forms also include a perforated confirmation slip for return to the company.

If a would-be passenger cancels his booking not less than eight weeks before the date of the tour, his deposit and whatever else he has paid is refunded in full. Within eight weeks, unless the reasons why he is not going on a tour are beyond a passenger's control, only the balance is repaid. The deposit, irrespective of the price of a tour, is £1 per-seat.

When overnight accommodation has been fixed, arrangements are made for luncheon stops. Morning coffee and afternoon tea stops are left to the discretion of the driver, and the price of these is not included in the cost of the tour.

The next stage is the preparation and publication of the brochure, which covers tours both in Britain and on the Continent. This attractive publication, which follows a generally similar pattern each year, gives brief details of each tour, starting points and departure times, approxi

mate arrival times at the end of the tour, S.U.T. and agents' offices and telephone numbers, a postal booking order form and conditions of acceptance, and seat plans of the six types of coach used on tours. On these, each seat is numbered, and the plans are lettered " A " to "F," the corresponding letter being given against each tour.

Cheaper and less detailed leaflets, one covering Continental tours and the other British tours, are available for more general distribution.

For the first time this year, each brochure contained a leaflet giving the names of the driver-couriers in charge of each tour. This was done to satisfythe apparently large number of repeat passengers who " follow " a particular driver-courier, irrespective of the tour.

The duties of -driver and courier are the dual responsibility of one man. On British tours, with one exception, only one driver-courier accompanies a party, but on the Continent there are invariably two, who take roughly equal turns at the wheel.

Although desirable, knowledge of B9 a Continental language is not a necessary qualification of S.U.T.

driver-couriers. Insurmountable language difficulties are rarely met with on the well-trodden path taken by most tours today.

For the current season, brochures were sent to some 16,000 people, a figure representing all those who had participated, or expressed interest, in S.U.T. tours during the past three years. These records are maintained by the Addressograph system, the name and address of the person and the date of the tour (or inquiry) being cut in a metal plate. During the off-season each year, the records of those whose three-year qualifying period has expired are destroyed.

Last year brochures were sent out late in November. and for the first time bookings opened before Christmas—on December 4. Correctly anticipating a busy day, the tour department had allocated to each agent a specific 15-minute period during which to telephone his bookings to Pond Hill.

Wriften Confirmation This was followed by written confirmation of the bookings on S.U.T.'s official form, which the agent sends to Pond Hill, together with the required amount of money. If only the £1 deposit has been paid. the agent issues his own receipt, which is later confirmed by the official receipt-cumbooking order form issued at Pond Hill.

There are two types of receipt— green for Continental tours and yellow for British tours. Of the three copies of each, the original is given to the person making the booking, the first copy (similarly distinguished by colour) goes to the charting department, and the second copy to the accounts department.

Once he has decided the tour on which he wishes to travel, the wouldbe passenger at Pond Hill is shown a seating plan for the date in question, and his name and receipt number are entered on the seat chosen. These plans are kept in loose-leaf binders, one for each tour.

The counter is separated by partitions, each of which is assigned to a specific assistant — a 11 smartly uniformed young women—whose name is prominently displayed. A comfortably furnished room is provided off the main booking hall in which inquirers with special requirements can be interviewed.

The tour charting department adjoins the booking hall. At the height of the booking season, three people work full time on charting

tours, but when the main rush is over only two are occupied, and one of these is part-time. Charting staff arc switched to and from tours, and excursions, and express (at Union Street), according to demand, the work being arranged so that demand for the two does not coincide.

From their copy of the receipt, the charting staff enter the required details of the booking in a large ledger, from which is extracted a daily breakdown of bookings. This, in turn, is entered on a simple form from which the tour manager can tell the up-to-date position of all bookings virtually at a glance. At quiet periods, the ledgers are checked against the original seating plans.

At the end of each week, three duplicated sheets, one each for tours commencing on Saturdays, Sundays and Mondays, is circulated to agents. These give the number of seats available on all tours throughout the season.

Prospective passengers are required to pay the balance of the cost of a British tour not less than 14 days before it is due to start, and 21 days before a Continental tour begins.

From the information in the charting ledgers, the currency department sends out in March a currency application form to all prospective participants in Continental tours. Those who do not hold passports are told in the accompanying letter to apply to an office of the Ministry of Labour.

There are 11 standard letters dealing with this aspect of foreign touring. Seven concern arrangements Nfor the tour, and the remainder relate to currency refunds after a tour. A nominal charge is made to passengers who wish to employ the services of the currency department.

In the last letter sent out by the currency department immediately before a tour, the passenger is

informed that the required currency and travellers' cheques are in the company's possession and will be handed to him, together with his passport, on the day the tour commences. At this stage, he is also advised on such general matters as the type of clothing suitable for a touring holiday, and Customs procedure.

Enclosed with the letter is a "progress chart" giving the name. address and telephone number of each hotel that will be used en route (luncheon stops as well as overnight stays), and the passenger is requested to leave this with his next-of-kin.

A voluntary baggage and personal accident scheme, 'with special terms agreed between S.U.T. and the Sun Insurance Office, Ltd., Cambridge, is available to all participants in tours.

As he boards the coach at Pond Hill, the passenger is given an attractive plastic wallet designed to hold his passport and other documents. He is also supplied with the current rates of exchange for the countries in which S.U.T. run tours, the names of each of his fellow tourists and their positions in the coach, and an illustrated leaflet giving fuller details of the tour and a map showing the route that will be taken.

Reunion Dance

A popular extraneous activity of the tour department which has good publicity value for the company is a reunion dance held annually at Sheffield's City Hall. This year, when it was held on March 1, more than 1,000 people attended.

Such good opportunities for publicity as the Continental coach rallies are rarely missed by S.U.T.'s general manager, Mr. Ben Goodfellow, whose interest in public relations has played a big part in placing the company among the country's leading operatois of extended tours.

This year, the coach on the tour to Switzerland and the French Riviera competed at both Nice and Montreux —and the passengers on the tour had an extra day. free to enable the coach to do so.

Local publicity includes the showing, from December to April each year, of holiday film programmes in towns and villages throughout the area from which most of the company's patrons are drawn. Films are borrowed from the London travel offices of Continental countries in which S.U.T. run tours, and the programme often includes a film of a tour taken by a driver-courier with the company's own clod-camera.

comments powered by Disqus