Busabout’s new coach network in the US allows clients to create their own unique road trip. Head of marketing Sam Hollinshead talks to Abra Dunsby about the new product.
The US is the land of the road trip – and yet driving in America isn’t always easy, especially for younger visitors.
“A self-drive holiday in the US is very expensive, primarily if you’re a solo traveller,” says Sam Hollinshead, head of marketing at Busabout. “For our core age demographic [20-25], it can be hard to hire cars in the US. Under 21s can’t hire a car, and those under 25 have to pay a surcharge.”
Busabout’s product alleviates this issue – its coach network of routes around the US allows clients the flexibility to create their own trip, deciding where to sleep and how long they stay in each destination. The operator already has an extensive network of coach routes in Europe, and launched in the US and Canada in May.
Busabout’s clients can choose from two main travel styles – opting for a pass on its hop-on hop-off network to create their own trip, or choosing a guided adventure that’s more akin to a conventional escorted tour, but with more optional inclusions and free time included.
“Hop-on hop-off is our core product,” explains Hollinshead. “Independent travellers can choose where they go, how long they stay and in what accommodation, plus meet likeminded travellers along the way. They aren’t confined by a set itinerary.”
Busabout has one recommended accommodation provider at each stop, or travellers can decide to book their own.
“The buses run every two days, so people have the freedom to extend time in a certain destination,” she adds.
Hop-on hop-off buses have guides aboard, who can offer suggestions about what to see and do, and where to stay.
“The buses aren’t like public transport – the guides are much appreciated in terms of giving recommendations, and the buses are very social. People often make friends on the bus and then make travel plans together.”
Busabout’s 11 set itineraries in the US range from a 22-day West to East Road Trip covering 12 states, to a three-day Western National Parks Adventure, starting and ending in Las Vegas and taking in sights including Bryce Canyon and Monument Valley.
“The West to East coast itinerary is selling like hot cakes,” says Hollinshead. With hop-on hop-off, Busabout offers a loop of eight destinations on the West Coast, including big cities such as Los Angeles, San Francisco and Las Vegas.
“We also include some quieter destinations such as Yosemite, Mammoth Lakes and South Lake Tahoe, so we offer a real diversity of product that caters to different interests.”
Uptake has been promising so far, says Hollinshead: “Hop-on hop-off is such a different product, and there’s been a huge interest in our US portfolio. We have a new brochure coming out in May and we’ll be listening to customer feedback and adding product where we see fit.”
Working with agents has been integral to Busabout’s success, with the operator offering a launch incentive alongside its new marketing campaign, as well as training and agency visits complete with American snacks. “At the moment, just over half our current UK business comes from the trade,” says Hollinshead.
So what makes Busabout unique in the market? It’s the freedom that it gives clients to travel their way, says Hollinshead. “Everyone likes to have choices, and our demographic doesn’t like being told what to do. Clients will meet plenty of people on the road on our buses, but ultimately they’re doing their own thing.”
1. Sell the experiences. It’s easy to get lost in the details of travel dates and how many nights clients are spending wherever, but it’s the cool experiences Busabout offers that people will remember.
2. A huge USP for us is the freedom we offer clients to decide what they want to do.
3. The US is so diverse that clients really can experience everything there with us, from big cities to lesser-known gems.
■ Hop-on hop-off coach size: accommodates up to 45 people.
■ Set itinerary group size: Maximum size is 40, average group size is 25.
■ Core demographic: 20-25, though the operator is open to all clients aged over 18. Its demographic is 65% female, and 62% of clients travelling to the US are solo travellers.