Jeremy Gates finds out what is causing the boom in coaching holidays

COACH holidays are back in fashion as cost-conscious passengers seek out packages free of hidden extras.

More than seven million are booked each year – about four times the number of cruise holidays.

The attractions of going abroad by coach are rising as the wobbly pound leaves travellers worried about what the final cost might be, but the prices for coaching holidays remain relatively unaffected.

Four-night half-board hotel breaks in Britain come in below £200, seven-night stays in Europe cost about £600, and glamorous destinations by luxury coach, such as the Arctic Circle or Russia can cost nearly £2,000.

Shearings’ five-day tour of the Scottish Highlands by luxury Grand Tourer coach, via elegant Pitlochry, includes a Land Rover safari across a Perthshire estate to see red deer, mountain hares and golden eagles – an experience nominated last year as Best Visitor Attraction in Scotland. Available from June to September, prices start from £379.

The Coach Tourism Council, representing more than 150 UK coach tour operators, says that those in the 60 to 69 age bracket – the core market for coach tours – are the biggest spenders. They also take the longest holidays (average 11.15 days) and the most expensive (£794 for travel and accommodation, plus £454 spending money).

Dennis Wormwell, chief executive of Shearings, says: “We carried one million passengers for the first time in 2012, and we’re shaping up to beat that in 2013. Coaching holidays are in the sector where the money is. Two-thirds of the country’s personal wealth is held by over- 50s, the age group taking more holidays than any other.

“There’s also great loyalty in the sector. If people like the product, they come back for more, and we fix incentives to encourage bookings.

People are canny, though – if funds are tight, they book five nights instead of eight, or two holidays a year instead of three.”

Shearings also owns about 50 hotels in historic centres such as Bath, Scarborough, Harrogate and Stratford-upon-Avon, which are partly filled by the coach operation. UK short breaks account for about 85 per cent of all Shearings coach holidays.

Although coach holidays appear to be mainly for older people, Wormwell says standard packages have been reshaped as the sector has grown. “As baby boomers are reaching 65, many think they are 15 years younger than they are,” he says. “Forget bingo and ballroom dancing on holiday, they want walking, opera, big sporting events, great gardens and the bulb fields of Holland.

“Coaching holidays are a hit with people travelling alone. There’s no hassle and coach travel is environmentally friendly. The best coaches, costing about £240,000, are superbly comfortable for long distances.”

One popular Shearings package takes travellers beyond the Arctic Circle: the 17-day Scandinavia & Land Of The Midnight Sun by a Grand Tourer vehicle includes city breaks in Oslo and Copenhagen. Available between May and July, prices lead in at £1,899.

At Leger Holidays, Grand Explorer packages include Silver Service coaches – added comfort, extra legroom and porterage at each hotel – on adventures such as mthe 16-day Grand Russian Spectacular. From £1,699, the package includes stops in Belgium, Berlin, Warsaw, Moscow, St Petersburg and Copenhagen.

  • Shearings: 0844-209-7143 and; Leger: 0844-846-0808 and; Coach Tourism Council promotes tours and holidays for 150 UK operators at