5 questions for
Florian Gärtner, Managing Director of the International Association of B2B Wholesalers (VPR), talks about his personal bus experiences and how his members and the bus travel industry are adapting to new target groups and trends.
When did you last go on a bus journey?
I can still remember the bus journey quite well. It was to Italy in November 2021, whereby it really began as a connecting trip for a cruise. However, the other passengers and the pleasant conversations I had, the catering on the five-star coach and the attentive guides, they all made it a complete journey, or at least an excellent start to an outstanding travel experience.
In your view where does a journey begin?
With hope! When I start packing my suitcase there is still always hope. Can I fit in everything a man needs? I mustn’t leave anything behind, must be prepared for all eventualities, only to realise that I can buy a spare T-shirt at my destination. People always smile when they find out I have more pairs of shoes than my wife. That is just one of my odd habits.
As managing director of the VPR, what trends to do you see emerging with coach travel services?
Thank you for a very good question. A survey commissioned by the VPR found that when choosing a coach tour operator customers value soft factors such as friendliness, knowledge of a particular destination and an image more than the price. I personally see a trend towards premium travel services offering good value for money, and replacing cheap mass market business.
How well is your industry equipped to meet the expectations of a younger audience?
Our package tour specialists have already set their sights on younger travellers and are offering tailored programmes especially for them. That is absolutely necessary, as their interests differ substantially from those of older customers. With my own family for example, I have to schedule the itinerary differently to cater for my two daughters. Unlike on some trips with senior citizens, who consider the journey the most important aspect, here it is the destination. Often, instead of a historical place of interest, the attraction is leisure time, markets and shopping, and a guided city tour turns into adventure activities, a sports schedule or events. Printed travel documents are a thing of the past. Apps are an absolute must and onboard entertainment is much appreciated – by old and young alike.
Where would you like travel to one day?
Not that I want to receive tour offers from our member companies tomorrow, but the far north appeals to me. As someone who comes from Hamburg, I would very much like to visit Scandinavia and Ireland. I could imagine travelling in a group, even though personally I wouldn’t mind it being a small group.