Kilwinning’s Thorne Travel is launching a range of Scottish coach tours to capitalise on growing overseas interest in visiting the country.
The agency, last’s year’s TTG Top 50 Top travel agency UK and Ireland, will brand its coach tour operation Thorne Travel Heritage, with its first three-day tour – capped at 16 guests – scheduled for next month.
Thorne will eventually be able to accommodate up to 50 people per tour, with a fleet of around 70 coaches of differing sizes at its disposal. Coaches will be branded Thorne Travel Heritage and will feature modifications to suit the travel preferences of different markets, such as a kitchen.
Owner Shona Thorne, who has been working on the project with her team for the past 10 months alongside specialist consultants, told TTG interest has come primarily from China, the US and Australia. Enquiries, meanwhile, have come largely through social media, particularly Facebook.
“We receive enquiries from all over the world for hotels and small tours,” said Thorne. “So we knew there was an overseas market for the sort of traditional Scottish tours that suit our brand.”
Trips will showcase the very best of Scotland, from its castles, coastline monuments, lochs and mountains to “farm to fork” food tours; golf, hiking and cycling excursions; and spa and wellbeing retreats.
While interest from the Chinese market has focused on Scottish landmarks, its culture and whisky trade, Thorne said prospective Australian and US customers have sought family reunion and Scottish heritage tours exploring their ancestral past.
“We just saw a gap in the market,” said Thorne. “We’re all incredibly passionate about Scotland so that’s where we’re focusing our attentions for the moment.”
Thorne said the agency had chosen to operate only a handful of tours throughout the rest of the year due to the current economic and Brexit climate, and to iron our any snags ahead of a full launch next year.
A social media campaign to promote the concept more widely will debut next month.
Thorne Travel Heritage project developer Lynsey Ferrol will join the business full-time from 1 June as digital content producer across Thorne Travel Group’s three brands – Travel, Experience and Heritage.
Customer journey manager Samantha Garrity, meanwhile, will step up to a group-wide customer service director role at the end of the year.