In this month’s Check Points, we discuss coaching matters with Robert Easton, General Manager at CoachMarque member, Eastons Holidays of Norwich.

Robert Easton with one of the fleet.

Robert Easton with one of the fleet.

What is the background behind Eastons Holidays?
Eastons Holidays was begun by my father, Alfred Easton, in 1953, with one coach after he progressed from operating a taxi service. He ran the Rat Catcher’s Inn in Cawston and that was where the company was originally based before we moved to our current site in Stratton Strawless, near Norwich, about 20 years ago. In the early days, a lot of the work was transporting local Bernard Matthews staff between their various places of work!

How has the company grown since then?
We ticked over until the late 1970s when we bought out several companies, leading to our first proper scheduled programme of touring holidays. We have continued to expand ever since and we now have a fleet of 11 coaches and one vintage vehicle, with a staff of just over 20 people.

What is your role in the business and background in the industry?
I am now the General Manager but have been involved with the company and in the industry since I was 21 when I first passed my PCV test to become a coach driver.

What sort of fleet do you offer?
Eastons has 11 coaches ranging from 16 to 53 seats, of which seven are full executive coaches, five of these being tri-axled allowing for extra legroom; all our executive coaches are less than seven years old. Then we also have a vintage coach dating from 1952, which is available for private hire and a nice extra feature!

What is the main focus of the business?
Our main focus at present has got to be the scheduled holiday and day excursion programme across the UK and mainland Europe. This year, we have already operated 250 day trips and 200 holidays, which is a record for us! We are also keen to build up the private groups side of the business though too.

How long have you been a member of CoachMarque and why did you join?
Eastons Holidays has just become a member of the Confederation of Passenger Transport’s CoachMarque quality accreditation scheme – in June this year – making us the only member operator in Norfolk. I had been thinking about joining for a couple of years and I believe it will help raise our standards even further, showcasing what a quality service we offer. I have already added the CoachMarque logo to the liveries of our vehicles!

Do you look to appeal to GTOs in a particular area?
Obviously it is more cost effective for GTOs if they live within the Norfolk area but we are happy to discuss the needs of groups from across the UK.

What benefits can Eastons Holidays offer group travel organisers?
We offer discounts on our scheduled tours and we can often try and match smaller groups up with each other if they are struggling to fill a coach.
Our tour manager, Nigel Kelly, and myself are the point of contact for GTOs and we are always happy to come out to your group to give a talk or presentation on Eastons and how we work, and the places we visit, before you travel with us. If we find that we have spare places on the theatre trips we run, then we will often offer these free to our GTO customers as a thank you, and we have a wealth of contacts that we can call on at hotels and attractions to help tailor-make the perfect group itinerary. We can cost door-to-door pick ups for group members into a package and, as a member of CITO (the Consortium of Independent Tour Operators), we can help arrange holidays by air as the organisation holds its own ATOL (Air Travel Organisers’ License).

How do you feel business has been for Eastons Holidays in 2011 and looking ahead to 2012, particularly in regard to groups?
We have had such a good year this year, building on the success we also enjoyed in 2010. Business has increased by between 10 and 20% and this includes the groups side of things. I expect this tocontinue and extend into 2012, making our 60th year in 2013 something to well and truly look forward to!

If you could highlight one thing that makes Eastons Holidays stand out from the crowd, what would it be?
I would say the quality of our coaches and drivers – which is second to none – although technically that is more than one highlight! The distinctive purple colour of our vehicles and drivers’ uniforms is also another thing that makes Eastons Holidays stand out from the crowd – quite literally!

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