Coach firm closed for 15 months puts bounce back down to decent pay packets

Simon Spencer (left), Ian Coleman (centre) and Alison Fenton

Simon Spencer (left), Ian Colman (centre) and Alison Fenton, directors of ICT Coaches Limited, say trade has exploded since May of this year - Credit: I C Travel

A coach business blighted by 15 months of pandemic-induced inactivity has said the key to "bouncing back" is treating staff as human beings, rather than just cheap labour.

Ian Colman, 56, is the managing director of I C Travel and co-director of its sister company ICT Coaches - both operate out of his village in Taverham, north of Norwich.

Despite the company's entire coach arsenal being grounded for a long 15 months after the first lockdown in March 2020, trade "exploded" again in May of this year.

The secret, according to Mr Colman, is focusing on "quality" rather than "cost-cutting".

He said: "The coach industry was decimated by Covid.

"We couldn't do any school or day trips to the West End, holidays abroad, airport runs. Everything was cancelled.

"Nobody stepped on to one of our coaches for nearly a year and a half."

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"We all had to find other ways to keep busy. I was stacking shelves at Tesco in Drayton, my wife began working for Test and Trace and another one of the directors was an Amazon driver," he added. 

"But because we pay our staff more than other companies out there - where the focus might be to save money - we had no shortage of drivers when the industry opened up again.

"In fact, we were able to recruit new staff when the rest of the industry was facing a driver shortage."

The fleet of coaches was grounded for 15 months during the pandemic

The fleet of coaches was grounded for 15 months during the pandemic - Credit: I C Travel

Mr Colman said workers at the two companies receive minimum wage plus an extra £3 — or 25pc — which might not sound like much, but "adds up quickly".

This means customers have to pay a bit more than they would elsewhere.

But he said because staff were treated well they went above and beyond for the company. 

He said drivers had filled up tanks at 2am when there was a panic over fuel supplies and had dealt with customers as "real people" rather than "pieces of luggage".

The 56-year-old said proof of the business's success lay in the fact both companies had reached the national final of the Coach Tourism Awards 2020 after being nominated by clients.

"The industry was hit so hard by the pandemic, so it was brilliant to make the list of the top five coach companies nationally", he explained.