This month we get to know better First Travel Solutions
What was your motivation to join ICCA?
First Travel Solutions has been providing managed coach and taxi services in the UK since the mid-1980’s and has grown generically across several market sectors such as providing ground transport for major sporting and cultural events, for airline and railway disruptions as well as general ‘private hire’ work. We have worked with numerous conference and congress organisers, but we now see this as a focus sector in which we can develop our business, so membership of the ICCA was a logical step for us to take. We would now like to offer our transport management services to anyone organising an event in the UK, covering anything from airport transfers, hotel and city centre shuttles, inter-event transport, partner programmes and anything else that requires a vehicle.
Tell us your story. How did First Travel Solutions get started?
Back in the mid 1980’s the UK leading transport company, FirstGroup plc, purchased a ground transport company that had previously worked almost exclusively with the rail replacement service market. The business potential was evident, and the company’s expertise along with its relationship with the UK coach industry lead to a rapid expansion into most areas of UK ground transport. However, much of this growth has been sporadic, and the company has now identified certain sectors where it would like to become the default supplier for any ground transport requirements. The conference and congress market is one such sector on which we are now focussed.
What sets Travel Solutions apart?
In three words – ‘safety, quality and value’. Everything we do is built on these foundations. As well as being part of the ethos of FirstGroup, First Travel Solutions has sought to embed these even more within our business by investing in the attainment and ongoing maintenance of three ISO certifications covering Quality, Health & Safety and Quality Management. This independently audits our product delivery to our clients and ensures that we only work with the best of the UK’s coach and taxi industry. Add to this a company staff that offers years of experience alongside a friendly persona and ‘can-do’ attitude and you start to understand why our clients are so loyal and why we have so many that will testify to the quality of our work. Ask yourself how confident you currently are when arranging travel? If the answer is not 100% you should really be talking to us!
What is your favourite success story from your organisation?
Still a favourite, but still a favourite – do you recall the ash cloud from that Icelandic volcano with the unpronounceable name? With flights grounded the demand for coaches across Europe was extreme, yet even a few days into the crisis, our loyal coach company suppliers were still able to supply vehicles to us. One beneficiary of this excellent supply chain relationship was a famous Premiership Football team who we managed to get down to London for their ‘away’ Champions’ League fixture in Paris by taking them to the Eurostar Terminal in London. Of course, we were also the ground transport provider for the London Olympic Games which was also a source of much pride.
What can we expect to see from Travel Solutions in the future?
We will hopefully become a well-known and trusted supplier to your industry. Of course, we also hope to bring all that is new from the world of ground transport to your events, most likely in the form of new generation coaches and taxis powered by potential new sources such as electricity and hydrogen. These promise to reduce CO2 emissions even further, even though the new generation of diesel motors are ultra-clean compared to those which were around when we started in the 1980’s! Couple this with new technology which will enhance our current GPS tracking systems and management systems and the future looks very exciting.
Which trends do you see in the Association Meetings?
Hopefully a recovery! After months of lock-down, we’re really looking forward to people meeting face-to-face once again for a lively exchange of ideas and mutual well-being. I also think that some good habits will remain, such as the new cleanliness regimes for vehicles that we supply and more awareness of environmental issues. However, the Associations Meetings sector to us is a major opportunity, but you are the experts and know what you want to achieve and how this will be done. First Travel Solutions will be here to ensure that your members and delegates enjoy transport that gets them where they should be, at the time that they should be there!
What is an industry challenge your organisation is facing currently?
Like most industries, our coach and taxi suppliers range from large companies to smaller, family owned, concerns. The decimation of the travel industry during the Covid pandemic has seen many companies sadly cease trading. The stop-start nature of the recovery has also left several in a perilous state, and it’s likely that some more will fail before the recovery truly starts. This is a challenge for our business, but thankfully as we work with roughly 1,200 coach companies and 400 taxi companies in the UK we can move work to other companies under such circumstances with the minimum of fuss. However, imaging that you’d contracted your transport directly with such a company, and that company fails shortly before your event – a complete nightmare, but one that’s easily avoided if you talk to First Travel Solutions.