Holiday coaches return to city as travel world opens up again

by Colin Campbell

ONE evening last week I saw four holiday coaches parked along the riverside beside the Palace and Columba hotels.

Three years ago this would have been a familiar sight.

Then, recalling a time we almost want to blank out now, covid struck, hotels and everywhere else closed down, and we were plunged into fear, uncertainty, boredom and misery.

The tourists who regularly flooded into Inverness in their thousands bringing in mountains of money to support businesses and jobs seemed so far distant as to be on the dark side of the moon.

Now they are returning, in very large numbers. And these coaches I saw showed that covid has in the minds of many shrunk to being a factor of little or no significance.

This welcome development has happened sooner than might have been expected. Coach travel is mainly for older or elderly people and they might have been hesitant about spending lengthy periods travelling in a confined environment with strangers.

But clearly a significant number have cast that concern aside. I don’t know if this level of business is returning to the volume of three years ago but it’s progressing in the right direction.

Coach travel is a holiday mainstay of Inverness hotels. Visitors come from all over the UK, the continent, the, USA, Australia and Japan, among other places.

And they are invariably pleasant and easy people to deal with. By which I mean it’s excellent that Inverness is a favoured holiday destination but the city and the Highlands also  attract the right kind of people. Civilised, respectful, undemanding and easy going.

Our holiday venue status would be viewed rather differently if our guests mainly comprised hordes of drunken young revellers with a Benidorm style attitude to their getaway.

When I worked for a couple of nights a week for a while at one riverside hotel I met and chatted to many coach travellers. They were virtually all pleasant older folk but I found the Americans to be the best. They couldn’t have been further removed from the stereotypical image of the loud Yank abroad. Any gesture, any offer of assistance, was automatically greeted with thanks. Being polite, friendly and courteous seemed to be in their DNA.

The Australians were pleasant and interesting too. I know how easy worldwide communication is these days but I always found it mildly fascinating to hear someone chatting to a relative or friend at midnight telling the recipient of the call where they were and how great a time they were having, 12,000 miles away.

And from a reverse perspective the list of places people from here have been to, or are in, with no covid access problems at all is growing all the time. I’ve mentioned California and Mauritius already, and now can add France, Spain, Italy, the Greek Islands and Cyprus. First hand accounts from travellers who, needing only proof of vaccination, and merely showing it as they would their passports, having no travel difficulties whatever. Back to the way it was in other words.

Much of the world is fully opening up again. At the gloomiest peak of covid I wondered if I’d ever see travel return to normal, but all the signs are that it is already rapidly getting there.

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