Cruise line Holland America is using motorcoaches as an integral part of a campaign to promote its Alaska and Yukon land and sea tours.
The company’s Alaska tour operations, which started in 1948, now have six Tour Explorer Coaches, each with two-driver teams, riding around the U.S. giving seminars in motorcoaches called “Moose Mobiles” at various travel shows. Three of these teams give the motorcoach seminars, and the other three entertain crowds with a stage show called “Onstage Alaska.”
The campaign has been conducted every winter for the past four to five years and utilizes completely renovated MCI E model coaches. Each coach displays three-quarters of a full wrap — leaving the windows clear for viewing the Alaskan wilderness — with one of three schemes: a moose with an orange background, a bear with a green background, or a whale with a blue background.
There are typically four interactive seminars held in each location, lasting about 30 minutes each, depending on what the travel company hosting the show requests.
The Touring Explorer Coach concept evolved from Holland America’s desire to improve the land travel experience in Alaska. “The best way to see Alaska is on the ground or from a ship, and to do that, you’ve got to be on a train, a motorcoach or a ship,” says David Beagle, vice president of transportation. The idea started in 1991, when the company ran Alaska Yukon Explorer Coaches, 17 Prevost H560s, along the Alaska Highway as part of the tour program. Once those coaches got older and needed replacing, they introduced MCI E models into their fleet.
After holding marketing meetings and reviewing customer feedback, the company planned to encourage people to visit Alaska and to experience it on the ground. It decided to make the coach tours of Alaska and western Canada more upscale, paralleling the experience sold on its ship tours, and upgraded its coaches in late 2006 through early 2007 over the course of four months. To do so, it enlisted Complete Coach Works to refurbish each coach with a new REI sound system, install combination leather and cloth seats provided by National Seating, and decrease the number of seats from the standard 54 to 46 to give guests more leg room.
Coach amenities for the Alaska and Yukon tours include six motorized 15-inch drop-down monitors; eight-channel audio fed by a digital player that holds all songs on a disk; and DVD and digital video players. The travel company also shows tour videos. “We do a lot of our own video work on certain Alaska travel-related topics, and we have a full-time writer for our tour scripts and guest handouts. We have quite an involved program of what we call ‘enhancements’ for our Alaska tour program,” Beagle says.
The “Moose Mobile” and “Onstage Alaska” promotional tours inform potential travelers of two tour programs; one called the Gulf Tour, consisting of seven days on ship and three days on land, and the other called the Interior Tour, consisting of three to four days on ship and seven to ten days on land. About 20 of the 40 Explorer “Moose Mobile” coaches are used on the longer Interior Tour programs and 12 of them are used on the Gulf Tour programs.
The Alaska motorcoach tour numbers increased in 2007, according to Beagle, partially because of the Touring Explorer Coach promotion, but also as a result of a higher level of guest satisfaction with the entire Alaska experience.