Battling Majestic back on road after 'nightmare' year

Joseph Bulmer

A well-known coach holiday company is back on the road after a ‘traumatic’ 12 months.

Majestic Tours are coming out of the pandemic with all guns blazing despite refunding a staggering £3 million to customers due to cancelled holidays.

They have revealed expansion plans and say the response to their 2021 holidays brochure has been ‘phenomenal’.

Owner Mark Wright revealed how 2020 started well with record bookings and ‘wonderful optimism’.  But he added: “Sadly, by March it was clear that the year would end very differently from what everyone had hoped.

“Overnight we went from taking hundreds of bookings a day, to refunding thousands of holidays.  It really was a nightmare.  Over the next few months, as Covid19 lockdowns were extended, we refunded nearly £3 million.”

He explained: “Thankfully we have always operated a Clients Trust Account for all holiday payments.  Clients’ money is locked in the account and is not available to us until holidays have been completed or, in this case, cancelled.  There are huge costs involved from staffing to bank charges and processing, but you have to do right by the customer.  You could say it is our family motto – ‘Treat others as you would wish to be treated’.”

Mark was dismayed by the response of some other coach holiday companies to customers during the pandemic with many refusing to refund passengers but just offering credit notes.

He says: “Yes, it is heartening when clients say they are happy to transfer to a later holiday or leave their money with us until they can travel again.  But many are nervous - they have seen other companies go the wall and people losing their money or having to battle for it from a credit card company.  If a client would prefer to have their money back, it is their right.

“Hopefully, the Government will introduce new laws banning companies from using clients’ money to fund operations leaving them exposed to unforeseen events.”

Majestic Tours is a family-owned and run business which started way back in 1984.  Founder James Wright had been in the hospitality trade for many years operating a variety of businesses including pubs, bingo halls and hotels.

In 1984 he owned the Carlton Theatre in Teignmouth.  His brother, Ricky (later to be the celebrated Director of Cardiff City Football Club), owned the Majestic Hotel in Bournemouth.  James occasionally helped manage the hotel and saw an opportunity for ‘off-season’ coach tours and created the very first ‘Readers-Offer’ holidays with a five-day coach holiday costing only £49.

It was the birth of Majestic Tours and a company providing top entertainment with themed holidays.  Mark was soon to join the company as business took off.

In 1989-1990, James and Mark decided to buy their own hotel in Torquay. The award-winning Templestowe hasn’t looked back since.

Despite the unprecedented challenges, Majestic are forging ahead with exciting plans.

Mark says: “It has been a long 12 months, but Lockdown has given us a great opportunity to crack-on with refurbishment of our ballroom at the Templestowe. We have retained nearly all our 80 hotel and office staff and they are all chomping at the bit to get providing holidays again.  Their loyalty has been heart-warming.”

Despite the ‘traumatic’ year, the company has also bought the next-door former Genting Casino.

Mark says: “We are not going to be operating as a casino but are hoping to extend the offering of our own Templestowe Hotel.  The development will provide new family rooms and suites and a fabulous new function and event space, a facility we hope will be of great use for Torbay residents too.  We have travelled throughout the whole of the UK over the years and passionately believe Torquay to be the best holiday resort in the country.”

“We recently launched our 2021 Majestic brochure.  The response has been phenomenal.  It is wonderful to see the optimism of our clients.  Many have had both of their vaccinations and are really in need of some social connection (as are the Majestic team to be honest).”

Marketing is key for Majestic. They are one of the levy payers into the English Riviera Tourism Business Improvement District initiative and have been one of the first businesses to say they will be voting ‘yes’ as the tourism company launches a ballot to win a second term.

Mak says: “All of us at Majestic, the family and our fabulous team, are excited by the future, tinged with a little anxiousness.  We know that soon we will be back to normal and enjoying the fun and companionship of the holiday business.  We wish all our friends and clients a happier year ahead.”