Coach operators’ "green” credentials plays an increasingly important part of our customers choice - Steve Spalding

Coach tourism in Scotland is often referred to as one of the lynchpins of the Scottish hospitality and tourism industry. It is held up as a beacon of success – this ability to see our wonderful country and hear the stories from the comfort of a luxury coach continues to attract tourists by their droves.

However, let’s just draw breath. There’s hardly a day goes by where I’m so grateful that we can now welcome coach travellers back and certainly, the bookings for this summers’ array of tours, reflect a steady and cautious return to a pre-pandemic levels of enquiries.

No question, the pandemic was a gamechanger for the industry but what it has done is given us time to reflect and rethink what is best for how the industry best serves the country – part of which should focus on the way the Scottish Government has declared a commitment to reach for Net Zero by 2045. Scotland hosting last November’s COP26, brought this into even sharper focus.

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Unlike local bus operators and services, where we have started to see electric / hydrogen vehicles in use, the coach industry has a different requirement and still has a way to go. The challenge for the coach industry ahead of the phasing out of “non-zero emission vehicles”, expected in 2040, is the availability of vehicles and supporting infrastructure. We need quality, affordable, mass market vehicles that are fuelled by alternatives and critically have adequate range.

Steve Spalding, CEO, Timberbush ToursSteve Spalding, CEO, Timberbush Tours
Steve Spalding, CEO, Timberbush Tours

Indeed, a coach operators’ ‘green’ credentials plays an increasingly important part of our customers choice – and rightly so. We therefore need to keep moving forward doing all we can.

As an example, several years ago, we adopted a spending principle. Essentially committing to an ethos where the environment is a key consideration within all procurement decisions. This led to many investments in fleet related facilities such as new LED lighting at our premises, electric vehicle wash, rainwater harvesting and in-house maintenance facilities, all reducing our environmental impact. We want our practices to be as green as our brand!

Some tour operators proclaim ‘green’ credentials’, yet also operate conflicting “guaranteed departure” policies. Meaning no matter how few passengers are on board, the tour will still be run. Travelling to a landmark destination using an oversized vehicle carrying only a handful, or less of travellers – it’s hardly financially viable, let alone good for the environment.

Whilst we fully understand a guaranteed departure policy provides certainty for customers, it is a commercial policy designed to generate more bookings and should not simultaneously be claimed to be “eco-friendly”.

Emerging from the pandemic, commercial rivalry between several tour operators was set aside to address this issue. This included working collaboratively with passenger sharing or consolidation to ensure our customer experience is delivered whilst also considering our environment. This proved to be a very progressive business practice. Think too, of the massive amount of Co2 that is saved!

This shift in mindset also flowed through to vehicle maintenance with our workshop, now conducting scheduled maintenance for several competitor tour operators. This led to reduced downtime and greater efficiency with reduced dead mileage and savings both financial and in Co2. Benefits for all, especially the environment!

We take great pride in, having been accredited with the Green Business Tourism Scheme Gold Award and EcoStars 5 Star rating and in an industry that metaphorically and literally doesn’t stand still.

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The Scottish Government’s Net Zero/Carbon Neutral target is only 23 years away. We have less than a quarter of a century to make the changes that will show the world that Scotland’s environmental credentials are amongst the greenest on the planet.

Steve Spalding, CEO, Timberbush Tours



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