Tourism Holdings gears up for summer tourists

Published: Thu 13 Oct 2005 03:43 PM
For Immediate Release
October 13 2005
Tourism Holdings gears up for summer tourist season
Johnston’s Coachlines & Great Sights drivers go the extra mile
to attain top qualification
Road rage, fatigue, road-works, driving in ‘A’ attitude city traffic or on demanding country roads. These are just some of the challenges that tour coach drivers grapple with on a daily basis, especially during the peak summer months (October- April).
Added to this, the drivers are also responsible for the most valuable cargo –people. And people who are having the holiday of a lifetime and expect the best.
These are the demands, the ingredients, the ever smiling David Kinnaird puts into his mixing bowl to train the best tour coach drivers in the country.
Kinnaird is the trainer for New Zealand’s premier tour coach operators Johnston’s Coachlines and Great Sights, both owned by Tourism Holdings Limited (THL). He also gets behind the wheel of a big luxury tour coaches during the busy summer season.
Fresh from completing THL’s off-season driver training programme, he says ensuring drivers are equipped and motivated to give passengers the best experience every time is crucial to preserving the reputation of New Zealand as a leading visitor destination.
“On one hand, our drivers need to be strong on operational aspects – safety on the roads, driving in a fuel efficient manner, driving in a range of road conditions, understanding first aid and emergency basics,” he said. “On the other, they need to be comfortable talking and interacting with people from a range of different cultures and they also need to be entertainers as passengers will judge them on their guide commentary about New Zealand’s natural, historical and cultural aspects as they travel around the country.”
All THL’s fulltime and contract drivers have now completed the New Zealand Qualifications Authority recognised National Certificate in Commercial Road Transport (large passenger service driver) with Long Distance Driver Strand.
THL’s driver training includes the rigorous Milford road accreditation, which ensures drivers are fully au fait with the many challenges the rugged Te Anau-Milford Sound route can present. The Milford accreditation programme was developed by the Bus and Coach Association (BCA) in conjunction with the New Zealand Road Transport and Logistics Industry Training Organisation, Transit New Zealand (NZRT) , the Land Transport Safety Authority, the New Zealand Police and the Department of Conservation.
THL drivers also get to walk the talk in THL’s annual School on Wheels programme. This is when a group of experienced and new drivers hit the road travelling around New Zealand to the key visitor destinations. The experienced drivers polish their skills while the new ones learn the business of being a tour coach driver. The School on Wheels programme covers everything from fault tracing in the event that there is an equipment problem with the vehicle through to honing knowledge of the quirky and interesting facts and figures in that make up their commentary for their passengers.
“We are committed to ensuring that our coach drivers are among the best, if not the best, on the road,” Kinnaird said.
NZRT’s General Manager, Graeme Talbot, commends THL on its significant investment in driver training. “We see THL as establishing the benchmark in driver training that all other operators need to achieve.”
BCA Executive Director, John Collyns, said it was crucial that tourist coach drivers are as skilled as possible in dealing with the kinds of hazards they stood to encounter on New Zealand roads.
“Their valuable cargo is people and for many of their passengers they are the face and the personality of New Zealanders. THL is committed to ensuring its drivers are trained to meet the most exacting standards and we encourage the rest of the industry to ensure that as many of their drivers as possible become similarly qualified.”

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