Apr 7, 2016

The ultimate dinner conversation


‘There is one thing stronger than all the armies in the world, and that is an idea whose time has come.’
- Victor Hugo

The humble beginnings of Scenic’s drive for innovation

Truly great ideas often arrive out of the blue, a combination of experience and timing and additionally, in the case of the first great Scenic innovation … a bottle of port. One evening in the early 1990s, Scenic founder Glen Moroney and coach driver Ray Pratt found themselves at dinner, reviewing the company’s performance and hatching plans for an even greater guest experience.

Epic growth

Australia Scenic Tours was becoming a force to be reckoned with in the travel industry. What had begun as a single coach tour to Victoria’s Great Ocean Road in 1987 for this Newcastle-based company, had developed into a successful enterprise known for its innovation and dedication to its guests.

Australian Scenic Tours (AST) already had several popular ventures behind them, including being the largest coach operator to the historic Melbourne production of The Phantom of the Opera, delivering tours to the iconic World Expo ’88 in Brisbane and launching a range of comprehensive tours across Australia and New Zealand.

The time was ripe for AST to launch something new.

Continual improvement

Which brings us back to that fateful dinner. Glen’s day had been focussed on overseeing the operations of his growing company and Ray had just returned from captaining yet another successful tour across the Northern Territory. They met to debrief about the tour. Ray suggested a port after dinner and the discussion turned to exploring new ways to improve guest comfort.

One of the defining characteristics of Australian Scenic Tours has always been its focus on continual innovation and improvement. From the moment it came into being, this company has put guest’s needs to the top of the list and has continually sought out new ways to allow guests to see the world in new and wondrous ways, via the very best modes of transport and luxury.

And it was with this in mind, the two men hatched a plan … why not put a second door on every coach?

A great idea

It was clear from the start that this was a new and exciting idea for coach travel. It would improve access to the coach and speed up the load on and off time considerably at each stop along the way, resulting in even more time spent by guests in the many beautiful locations AST travels to. It would also provide added safety in the event of an emergency and no matter where they sat, passengers would always be close to a door.

‘Ray said one of the greatest frustrations was the time it took to get everyone on and off the coach. One slow person could hold everyone up. We calculated the time saved ranged between 30 and 45 minutes per day. That's more time exploring attractions or what most guests wanted - more time to relax between arriving at the hotel and dinner,’ says Glen.

Setting the trend

After extensive design, construction and testing, this new fleet of two-door coaches were rolled out and were a huge success. The first touring company to introduce double-doors to its entire fleet, AST’s reputation for cutting-edge innovation was growing, as was its touring reach and guest numbers.

No other Australian tour operator had two-door coaches when Scenic built theirs in 1994, however by 1998 all had started to build them with the second door, adding coffee and tea and on board BBQs too. Scenic had really set the trend.

Looking back on that era and that timely idea and decision, Glen Moroney says ‘Putting our guests first has always been a priority for Scenic, as has our dedication to innovation. The roll out of the double-door coaches epitomised both of these ideals. I believe it really signalled to the travel industry that we offer a unique point of difference for travellers, something we have sought out ever since, with further innovations such as our river cruising ships and now our ultra-luxury discovery yacht, Scenic Eclipse.’

On the 4th anniversary of this great idea, plaques were erected above each middle door on the coaches, with the inscription, ‘Ray’s Way’. A reminder of the man who insisted on ordering the port and also of the importance AST, now Scenic places on getting the details right – both big and small – to be number one in the luxury travel arena.

It was now only a matter of time before Australian Scenic Tours took their unique travel philosophy even further by exploring even greater horizons overseas.

Key features of these ground-breaking coaches

  • Mercedes Benz coaches built to the highest standards
  • Additional door in the middle of the coach 
  • Environmentally friendly pollution control system
  • All seats fitted with seat-belts
  • Strengthened seat mounting and roll over protection
  • On board refrigerator and BBQ, tea and coffee making facilities and hot water urn with tables and chairs for lunch and tea stops in the Outback.
  • No touring coach older than two years