Showdown in the West

The WA Tourism Awards in November will pitch two prominent bus and coach companies against each other as each vie for the title of best major tour and transport operator

Showdown in the West
Showdown in the West

By David Goeldner | October 22, 2010

There’s a showdown looming in the west as two leading companies enter the battle for Western Australia’s best major tour and transport operator at the annual WA Tourism Awards.

It will be Adams Coachlines versus Veolia Transport WA’s South West Coaches Lines (SWCL) which is expected to be a close contest.

Adams Coachlines took silver at last year’s awards, but this is the first time South West Coach Lines have nominated.

Veolia Transport WA’s General Manager Lisa Shreeve says the motivation to nominate for the award is to highlight the difference SWCL’s new luxury Mercedes-Benz O500RF coaches were making to regional tourism.

She says the three new coaches started operating in March this year – each with luxury fit outs, including leather seats, mobile charging points, wifi and multimedia options – and a metre more leg room.

"We pick up about 1.2 million people a year and bring them down to the south-west from Perth," Shreeve says.

"We go to the Perth airport three times a day and bring in interstate and international tourists."

Shreeve adds the express service from Perth to Bunbury, aligned to tourism, has taken advantage of the new Forrest Highway, opened in September 2009 and reducing travel time by 30 minutes.

"When Veolia took over the business in December 2007 there was an opportunity to get more involved in tourism," Shreeve says.

"It’s a luxury coach run, and we are trying to get people out of cars and reduce the reliance on fuel.

"If you have a leather seat coach to sit in it’s much more enjoyable to sit back and let someone else drive for you."

Veolia, through South West Coach Lines, run route, school and charter services around Bunbury and Busselton.

The company also transports 2000 miners a day to the Collie mine to the east of Bunbury.

Shreeve says the WA tourism award nomination is a way to show how much her company has benefitted the south-west, and admits the competition for the award with Adams Coachlines and its subsidiary Swan Gold Tours will be a tight battle.

Adams Coachlines Managing Director Adam Barnard believes he has an advantage over the competition through a larger percentage of operations based around tourism.

"While we don’t operate in the Free and Independent Traveller (FIT) market we do the absolute majority of Perth’s inbound tourism group transport," Barnard says.

He says volume is not as important as service delivery.

"It’s the quality of equipment, the quality of the people delivering the service and the back-up that we provide, bearing in mind that we have brought on seven new coaches through the GFC in the past 12 months."

Barnard says his company had been through a tough stretch with the global financial crisis.

"But we made decisions that were future based rather than reactions."

Part of Adams Coachlines’ long term approach includes the soon-to-be-completed largest privately operated bus depot in WA, opening at Malaga in January.

"We’ve invested a lot of money in our new premises, we’ve invested a lot of money going forward, and we need to obtain a higher yield to pay for it."

Barnard agrees that it will be a close contest between his company and South West Coach Lines for the WA Major Tour and Transport Operators award.

He says the motivation for his company’s entry at the awards is to gain more recognition for Adams Coachlines staff.

"It’s been a tough year, but we knew coming out the other side of that we were in for one hell of a ride going forward," Barnard says.

And that ‘ride’ is hitched to WA’s mining and tourism industries, and his company’s approach to combine the two sectors.

"Mining and tourism go together, and it’s very hard for people in other states to get a grasp of that," Barnard says.

"With the oil and gas industry Perth will be the focus of the world in the next decade – and we are gearing up for that now."

Shreeve and Barnard have entered into the competition in a spirit of friendly rivalry, which includes a wager on the outcome.

The bet revolves around Adam Barnard’s annual charity work for Perth’s homeless with the ‘CEO Sleepout’ event at the WACA sports ground.

Barnard has invited Shreeve to join the sleepout if her operation doesn’t win the award, and conversely, if Veolia Transport WA triumph, then Barnard has agreed to sleep without the aid of a sleeping bag.

"I like sleeping on the WACA so in the unlikely event that we don’t win maybe the bet can be that I lie there with no sleeping bag – that makes it a bit tougher," says Barnard.

The winner will go on to the Australian Tourism Awards, also to be held in Perth in March 2011.

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