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CoachFest – Reflections on a new Trade Show

Following the sad cancellation of the UK Coach & Bus UK 2023 Show, for very understandable reasons, there was a gap in the calendar for networking opportunities for the coach sector, which tends to thrive at these sorts of events. Enter Temsa and Ilesbus who, in just over 4 weeks, managed to organise a gathering at Temsa’s UK base in Cleckheaton, West Yorkshire named CoachFest 2023 on 23 and 24 August. The UKCOA together with the CPT and RHA were all present, together with many suppliers from the industry.

So, what was it like? Well for a start it was very informal. The footprint was much smaller than other trade shows, but did that matter? We were all much closer together and the layout (in the shape of an ‘S’) meant that you got to see those visiting far more often than you might at a bigger show, so if you were speaking to someone else there was still an opportunity to catch others later.

The informality also generated a more relaxed style, which I think is what many coach operators are looking for. Many of them go to these events with a different expectation from the larger bus and coach operators in what they want to achieve. They want to see what the new products are; what is happening that may have an impact on how they run their business, but most importantly to catch up with their friends and colleagues who, like them have been involved in running coaches for many years. It was fortunate that the weather was generally good, as there were a number of vehicles for sale plus a bar and a food trailer (not forgetting the ice cream van) all located outside.

There were times, especially later on in the day, that the undercover area was sparsely populated, but that was when the operators were networking over a drink. However, that did not seem to matter for it gave those running the trade stands time to catch up too; something that we are not normally able to do.

The other issue that struck me that it was just a coach show and didn’t pretend to be anything else. At most, if not all, the trade stands there was something that was of relevance to the medium sized and smaller coach operator and it felt very much like it was their show.

The timing was interesting; hosting it just before the August bank holiday could have been challenging for many to attend, but as some of the activity was outdoors you need to pick a time when you are more likely to have good weather. Many operators will have already been away and returned from their annual holidays to give themselves a week or so to prepare for the start of the new school term. And forget post Easter to mid-July; this time period is the busiest for coach operators and simply you would not get the footfall. So, taking all of that into account it was not a bad time to schedule it.

If Temsa and Ilesbus do repeat the format in 2024, more advance notice may well push the numbers of attendees up (it seemed light on the second day) and I for one would definitely encourage all coach operators to come. It complements rather than competes with other trade shows and I believe there is a place for this type of format going forward. Well done to all those who put it on in a very short space of time.

Peter Bradley
Managing Director
UK Coach Operators Association