Coach hire price comparison site on fast-track to European expansion

A Derbyshire-based coach hire price comparison business is eyeing European expansion after seeing bookings surge past the £5m mark for the first time.

Coach Hire Comparison is on track to achieve bookings worth a total of £5.3m for the financial year to the end of February, up from £3.4m during the previous 12 months.

The website has provided 90,000 quotes so far this financial year – 30,000 more than its annual average.

Founded in 2010 by James and Laura Stokes, Coach Hire Comparison is actively used by around 130 independent coach and minibus operators across England, Scotland and Wales.

The website recently became an approved partner of Gauntlet Insurance, enabling it to attract a host of new operators. The company is now in discussions with other firms about similar partnerships.

James Stokes said: “We have seen a marked upsurge in quotes and bookings each time rail strikes have been announced, and especially for last-minute requests when train services have been cancelled at short notice.

“As a result, people have stuck with coach travel, especially while there remains uncertainty about rail services.

“During the past year we have added new features to our system, which have boosted conversion rates once quotes have been provided.

“We have begun pushing out quotes to operators outside of the areas directly mentioned in the routes requested, and this has had a tremendous impact on bookings as it has created greater competition and has therefore brought benefits to customers.

“Our enhanced Away from Base service has also been well-received. It enables operators to utilise their vehicles during a stay at a destination while awaiting the return journey by advertising their availability while they are there.

“The robust coach travel market, combined with user-friendly improvements to our website, has meant operators listed on Coach Hire Comparison are often run off their feet. A significant number of operators up and down the country have had to increase the size of their fleets to cater for the increase in demand they’ve seen over the past 12 months.”

Stokes added: “These positive developments give us enormous confidence for the future and we are now looking to take the business to the next level, with potential expansion into European travel being looked at along with company contracts for transporting their staff and more complex sporting and other event bookings.

“We also continue to invest in our technology to enhance the customer experience and bring even more success for the operators with whom we work.”