5 questions for
Carolin Grötzinger, who succeeds Birgit Grötzinger as managing director of Grötzinger Reisen and is a member of the board of the bus operators’ association WBO – Verband Baden-Württembergischer Omnibusunternehmer e.V.
How important is bus travel from your point of view?
The pandemic has really made me aware again of how important bus travel is: people are social animals and bus travel means being social. People from all walks of life gather in one place with a common destination in mind. This act of socialising and coming together has always characterised bus travel.
During the pandemic we noticed something was missing, that we could no longer meet and interact. As a bus operator both our private and professional lives were affected, with our buses out of service for about twelve months overall. They were no longer filled with life. Travelling offers new impressions, expands your horizon. People interacting is what creates a lively atmosphere. That is what bus travel is about.
What trends do you see in the bus industry? What do bus operators need to compete?
It has been, is and always will be important to let people know they are in safe hands. In every respect, that is. Naturally, the current focus is on restricting possible infections and keeping our customers safe. In Baden-Württemberg we are currently on high alert, and as of 3 November 2021 we are subject to restrictions again. We can sense the uncertainty among travellers. When do “2G” or “3G” rules apply? Must I keep my mask on? Who is sitting next to me?
We are having to offer lots of advice. Our contact with customers has become much closer and I can clearly see their concerns. With the coronavirus pandemic individual travel has increased again. A lot of people have bought motorhomes or are travelling by car. It would be good for us if the vaccination campaign is successful. And regardless of the pandemic, there is still an ongoing climate change discussion and it would be important for bus travel to become more appreciated.
What new customers can you target? Where can bus travel score more points?
I see our opportunities being with destinations that are less accessible by individual travel: urban tourism, round trips and adventure tours for example. We stop at certain locations to let groups explore the area on foot or by bicycle.
We pick them up in a different place, and so bus travel offers flexibility and comfort. The same goes for trips on rivers and lakes, which we supervise and where we organise land excursions by bus.
Karl Grötzinger, your great-grandfather, established Grötzinger Reisen way back in 1924. Can you recall your earliest impressions of the company?
The first thing I can remember was being allowed to clean buses as a child (laughs). My great-grandfather always said “cleanliness comes next to godliness“. That was his mantra. Besides the trip to school I used the bus a lot in my spare time too, which was fun.
Now you are taking over the company. The latest picture of the board of WBO – Verband Baden-Württembergischer Omnibusunternehmer e.V. shows eleven men – and yourself. How do see your role within that context?
I may be the only woman on the board, but there are an extraordinary number of women in the bus industry. Those companies are very female-oriented and 80 per cent of the women associated with the men in the picture work there. It is important that we women occupy more space.