Is a 'travel explosion' on the way?
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PTA conference discussion reported by Sam Buckley I An enormous tourist market is waiting to ouy British services, of which transport has 3Iways played an important role. There may De a substantial return to public transport. But achievement depends on planning and action low. Tourism is no longer a windfall profit for our service trades but bread and butter busiless.
These were the salient points with which L. J. Lickorish, general manager, British rravel Association concluded his opening aaper at the 23rd annual conference of the )ublic Transport Association held at Harrojate last week. Entitled "Tourism and Holiday Taking in the Future", it was summarized in I'M last week, together with the subsequent oaper given by Mr. E. W. A. Butcher, traffic nanager, Ribble Motor Services.
In discussion following the paper given by V1r. Lickorish, Mr. George Brook (Ribble) mid it was essential that bus companies ahould be represented in travel "workshops" as groups rather than individual companies. It ryas desirable that their representatives spoke he visitors language. For too long we had all axpected others to converse in our language. 3ut it was the role of the BTA first to attract risitors to this country.
There were still irritating delays for visitors vhich could be removed. For example, Mr. 3rook saw no reason why hotel registration orms should not be distributed to tour parties n advance, to eliminate this otherwise ime-wasting ritual.
A balance of payments aspect was introluced by Mr. D. W. Morison (Hants and )orset). With more people going abroad than hose visiting this country the payments posiion must be aggravated. That was all the nore reason why the transport services bould be given a shot in the arm by the :xchequer to raise travel facilities to Coninental standards so as to attract more .oreign tourists and help in restoring the aalance of payments.
It was a scandal, Mr.. Morison asserted, hat while we had spent many millions on notorways the allied mass catering facilities vere, in fact, mess catering and a shocking advertisement to foreign tourists.
Recognizing the undoubted appeal of the 30 dollar all-in ticket on the Greyhound serrices in USA, Mr. Morison suggested an even nore comprehensive ticket permitting travel an air, express rail and coach services within he UK. Haw operators received their dues vas a matter which could be worked out ;ubsequently.
London Heathrow airport, Mr. F. W. J. gobinson (Samuelson) told delegates, was alarming to be able to receive 14 Jumbo jets vithin minutes of one another. When they lid, 7,000 tourists would be arriving almost imultaneously and that was the measure of he tourist increase to come in the UK. Helpid by the effect of devaluation and with more noney to spend the future had been forecast is a "travel explosion".
But if at present it was more remunerative o a travel agent to sell package tours abroad le was going to do it. UK bus companies nust therefore give travel agents all the back
ing they could: it was not only a question of commission but also the charge an agent should make for his services.
Seat reservation was an expensive service, Mr. Robinson said. Bus companies should adopt the runabout tickets more and so offer a very saleable article. But travel-wise the Commonwealth was a soft-sell and Europe a hardsell.
Supporting this claim, Mr. G. Duckworth (Southdown) said his company's experience was that 99 per cent of their overseas passengers were from English-speaking countries. But the language barrier was a real difficulty in organizing coach tours. Their attempt to overcome it by producing publicity literature in French had proved a lamentable failure.
As to runabout tickets, they were a useful facility to offer overseas visitors who came on their own initiative. But it was asking too much to expect agents to sell these tickets and leave the visitor to arrange his own hotels, and so on. What operators must do, Mr. Duckworth contended, was to sell more and more inclusive package tours.
Mr. J. M. Cain (Isle of Man Road Services), representing an island whose economy was almost wholly dependent on the tourist trade, deprecated the tendency to complain that local councils were not doing enough to help tourism when the travel trade was not doing enough to help itself. With interests in both road transport and the hotel trade he was aware of the difficulties. The Isle of Man had to rely almost entirely on visitors from Britain and Eire and he questioned how they could attract overseas visitors already in Britain but with limited time to spend.
Responding to the discussion, Mr. Lickorish compared market research of BTA to improve the services offered with that of a motor manufacturer. The difference was that the BTA did not own the capital equipment—the buses, hotels, etc. BTA came close to the point of sale but they—the delegates through their companies—did the actual sale.
With such a wide range of interest making up tourism it was all too easy to adopt a negative policy by complaining of the benefits "the other fellow" was getting. A more positive approach was to "count one's blessings".
Despite the increase in cars arriving by ferry from the Continent by far the major proportion of tourists from Europe were dependent on public transport and were likely to remain so for many years to come.
In the discussion following Mr. Butcher's paper entitled "The Commercial Manager?" (also reported in CM last week) Mr. I. R. Patey (West Yorkshire) questioned whether in assessing advertising revenue Mr. Butcher had allowed for the "free" advertising derived by the operator himself from the use of the buses themselves, traffic offices, etc. Operators charged others for advertising space on buses; they should also charge themselves when they used the same facilities.
Operators must recognize that the "product" they had to sell was not always right, Mr. Patey continued. But often they were not allowed to give the service they would like. Thus LAs would look askance at some alternative fare schemes that might be attractive to passengers.
Mr. J. W. Womar (Midland Red) warned delegates not to get too involved in research so that there was no continuity in overall policy. The crux of the matter was, whatever type of organization was evolved, there must be commercial discipline to ensure efficiency and success.
Commenting forcibly on his personal involvement in the proposed PTA for the Birmingham area—a carbon copy of the loss-making Boston scheme in the USA—Mr. Womar exclaimed that there could be nothing worse commercially, Because a traffic manager was responsible for the movement of people, operators must first look to the service and then arrange charges, said Mr. R. Bailey (Lancashire Unit ed). But one could not become more commercial by merely changing the designation of the traffic manager. Having got the Ministry of Transport to widen the latitude of some regulations he deplored the reversal of this trend by the recent pressure to use "standard" buses.
Complaining about the growing use of obscure terminology to describe the simple facts of working life, Mr. G. M. Newberry (BET) suggested this pactice could be just intellectual one-upmanship. He objected to the term "mass-transportation". It conveyed the adverse image of drovers with their cattle.
Too much time could be devoted to longterm projects. The bus operators' problems had to be largely resolved by a series of short-term solutions to meet continually changing conditions. So give first priority to the short-term solution, he concluded.
Co-operate in the use of modern techniques but keep them in perspective was the advice of Mr. G. Carruthers (United Welsh), Transport was a grass-roots industry not an academic exercise. If operators went too far, a II adopting modern techniques, they could lose their individuality which had been a key factor in the success of the bus industry.
Many good plans based on the best techniques could fall down because of lack of communication. This aspect needed detailed examination, he contended, adding "We have to get over what we are after". He supported research but ultimately it was an attitude of mind that was the determining factor.
Presenting another "nationalist" view Mr. T. M. Glass (Edinburgh) said that, in television terms, the bus industry unfortunately had the image of "Product X". No matter how much was spent on marketing the product had got to be right. But do not base policy too much on surveys, he advised delegates. People could be very voluble on subjects they knew little about.
Returning to the subject of PTAs, Mr. D. G. Bevan (Birmingham) said that, if they were set up, the bus industry could get to the stage when commercial viability did not matter. Comparable with the E12m. loss last year of the carbon copy PTA in Boston, a Birmingham PTA could raise not only that city's rates by the equivalent of 2s. to 2s. 6d. but those of over 100 surrounding authorities.
Mr. E. A. Lainson (PV0A) suggested there was opportunity for the appointment of both traffic and commercial managers. The setting up of PTAs would create drab slates of uniformity when the success of the industry sprung from diversity.
Rounding up the discussion, Mr. Butcher said that there was room for a study group as to the use of computers in the bus industry. He had found that results produced by modern techniques were often more readily accepted than those produced by traditional methods. Answering a question as to how traffic managers could become more commercially-minded Mr. Butcher wimself a traffic manager but soon to take over a general managership) diplomatically replied "By being allowed to by their GMs".
Don't rush it, Mr. Marsh
A strong plea to the Minister of Transport to stay his hand was made by Mr. T. W. H. Galley, the PTA chairman and also director of passenger planning, THC, when addressing delegates at the Harrogate conference. Referring to the Minister's recent statement that, as a first stage, the reduction in the maximum daily driving hours would be from 11 to 10 and not to 9 as laid down in the Bill, Mr. Gailey said "We sincerely hope that the Minister for a long time to come will not go beyond this first stage. We are responsible people and have always continuously watched the interests of the public as well as of our drivers. Flexibility is vital to the transport industry: we cannot run our business efficiently for the public without it."
In the face of the recent drastic proposals in Government legislation the Association was probably more closely knit than any time in its history.
Mr. Gailey had reservations on the proposal in the Bill to provide capital grants to public transport. Naturally they welcomed grants which the Government were prepared to make available for improvement of facilities especially if they were substantial enough to lessen the impact of rising costs on fares.
But, Mr. Gailey insisted, these grants would inevitably take time to process and would not affect the finance of operators in the immediate future. Particularly did this apply to grants for new vehicles which, in effect, were only a partial restoration of the former investment allowances.
It did not seem to be realized in official quarters that a great measure of standardiz tion had already been achieved in the desic of vehicles employed in the major part of tF bus industry by close consultation betwee manufacturer and operators. Referring to h own THC organization, such standardizatic had been achieved because two manufactu ing concerns and a large section of bus ope ators were under common ownership. Whei such a considerable measure had alreac been secured surely, Mr. Gailey contendei there was a strong case for giving the vehicles the blessing of being called "at thorized" and so qualifying for a grant.
Bus operators welcomed the exemption stage carriage services from the further ir crease in fuel tax at the last budget. But th( felt that the distinction between stage ca riage and express carriage operating inte duced as a convenience for licensing proci dure in 1930 was now out of date. If thei had to be a distinction it should be betweer on the one hand, long-distance express ca riage services with a minimum fare of 5s. are perhaps, long-distance pleasure private hi and, on the other hand, ordinary services ar short distance contract services. Sur distinctions needed to be worked out in mo precise words but they should then be us( not only for fuel tax rebate but in any oth sphere where a distinction had to be drawn.
As to one-man operation Mr. Gailey war ed delegates that a heavy responsibility rest( on both management and unions to make th policy work following the recommendation 1 the PIB and its acceptance by the NCC Nevertheless he reiterated that one-ma operation was not the easy solution to all tf financial problems of the bus industry. I. reminded delegates that the chairman of if Dundee Transport undertaking had reveal( that the introduction of one-man buses on h undertaking showed no savings at all wh( used on urban services.
Referring to the work of the technical pan of the Association, Mr. Gailey said they we at present seeking co-ordinated research wi MIRA on subjects calling for advanced ar therefore extensive research and he hop( that all sections of the transport indust would co-operate in this joint exercise.
With greTterchanges ahead when tl Transport Bill became law, it was essenfi Mr. Gailey concluded, that there should be forum of influential operators so as to co-on
nate opinion as well as a body of experts advise the Ministry on technical and oper tional matters. This was the Association's rc but some widening of its present membersh might be an advantage.