Familiarity breeds customer satisfaction

By David Hubbard

Canadian operators welcome international tourists with two-door Van Hools

The time it takes to unload 50 passengers for routine breaks on the road has always been a concern for two Canadian tour operators. This year, TRAXX Coachlines, Vancouver, BC, and Great Canadian Holidays and Coaches, Kitchener, ONT, Canada, say all this will change with their recent purchases of Van Hool two-door T2145 motorcoaches built especially for the North American market. TRAXX is operating six T2145s, Great Canadian Holidays and Coaches is putting five into service.

“We make it our policy on our tours to stop every 2-1/2 hours for passengers to stretch their legs, grab a coffee and visit the restrooms,” says Great Canadian Holidays and Coaches President Larry Hundt. “Our process is very organized. Starting from the front, passengers unload down one side and up the other. Still, the time it takes for everyone to de-board and get back on the coach becomes significant. This problem is now solved.”

Before putting his coaches into service, Hundt says he immediately imposed a strict operational policy to monitor the second door’s use.
“A tour director or host must be available to man the rear door while the driver mans the front,” he says.  “Unless the company can ensure a capable person is at the door, it will remain closed.”

TRAXX Chief Operating Officer Nigel Taylor concurs.

“The second mid-door on these new coaches will definitely speed up exit and entry,” he says. “It allows those sitting at the back of the coach access as quickly as those at the front.”

However, Nigel says the real impetus for his decision came from the urgings of tour operators coming to British Columbia from Australia and New Zealand for two-door coaches.

“Familiarity goes a long way,” he says. “Australian and New Zealand tourists are used to two-door coaches. We also have a great number of European tourists arriving at our other locations in western Canada.”

Hundt says he got the idea on a trip to Belgium several years ago, seeing the second door as an experiment he wanted to try.
“These coaches are quite commonplace in Europe, and I have always thought they would be a new crowd pleaser in Canada,” he says. “At one time there were some two-door models in the U.S., but not in this day and age, which surprises me. The second door reduces so much of the burden for the driver.”

Hundt placed his order with ABC Companies two years ago during the UMA Expo in Tampa, FL.
“Van Hool makes a lot of different models for a worldwide market. They’re adept at modifying and customizing to customer preferences, so many have two doors,” he says. “My wife Lorna manages our tour business and has been pushing me to consider this option. This is one time she did not mind my spending money on new vehicles.”

Taylor says he is already advertising and marketing the two-door option to international tour operators, and business is already pouring in.

“We just recently booked three coach loads for this summer,” he says. “The customer also signed a three-year contract knowing passengers will be riding on familiar coaches. I think we will attract new customers who are concerned about the time it takes to get customers on and off the coach for breaks and meals.”

Hundt says that as he sends the two-door coaches on a maiden voyage, he will run a standard coach alongside and gather customer comment. BUSRide plans to circle back to report on his side-by-side comparison.