Laduma, Hylton Ross!
The Football World Cup has come and gone and, to a large extent, the fans were accommodated safely in the stadiums, their hotels, the country’s finest restaurants and also on our roads. DAVID SHEPHERD speaks to a Cape Town-based tour operator that continued doing what it does best – providing expertise in ferrying football fans to where they needed to go, including some of the country’s most popular tourist attractions…
Hylton Ross Exclusive Touring – one of the largest transport companies in the Western Cape – operates a fleet of 57 vehicles, ranging from seven-seater combis to 15, 21, 44 and 48-seater luxury coaches.
The company forms part of JSE-listed Cullinan Holdings group, and is licensed to collect passengers or groups from anywhere in South Africa. Cullinan Holdings group’s majority shareholder is Travel Corporation, which runs world famous vacation tour operations such as Trafalgar Tours and Contiki Tours. Hylton Ross provides a comprehensive range of scheduled escorted tours throughout the Western Cape and Southern Africa.
Hylton Ross’ panel of offerings includes full day tours to the Cape Winelands, Cape Point and Whale Viewing in Hermanus. “Half-day options include popular cultural tours of Western Cape townships and we also offer a four-day Garden Route trip,” points out Hylton Ross CEO, Geert van Doorn.
Van Doorn agrees with the justifications offered by those who won the bid to host the tournament, in that he sees the main impact the recent FIFA World Cup is likely to have in the positive publicity it is providing the country. “Althought the actual number of visitors for the World Cup was lower than expected, the event promises to provide a positive legacy for the country and the Western Cape region,” he comments.
Van Doorn was convinced of this when one of the Dutch supporters his company ferried described South Africa as “such an unbelievable surprise”. Given the negative publicity afforded to this country regarding safety and security, that visitor had been afraid to travel to South Africa, initially limiting his trip to Jo’burg. “But once he realized that it is actually safe and that the rest of the country is very accessible, he extended his tour to Durban and Cape Town as well,” Van Doorn says.
As expected, Hylton Ross had to move some of its touring focus to one side to accommodate the soccer transport requirements. “In terms of touring, the full day Cape Point and Cape Winelands tours seemed to be the popular options,” Van Doorn noted. “As we have a very diverse client base we carried Italians, British, Mexicans, Dutch, Americans, French and Japanese – all through our regular inbound tour operators. We made the decision right from the start not to commit our fleet to any of the big organisations such as Match or Fifa, but to keep it for our regular clients,” Van Doorn tells FOCUS.
Hylton Ross is particularly proud of its customer service. “We aim to never be late for our passengers,” Van Doorn tells FOCUS. “Furthermore, our state of the art tracking system, emergency response program and up-to-date safety equipment mean that passengers can rest assured, knowing that we are serious about road safety.” Indeed, the company does have a good reputation, which was reinforced last year when Hylton Ross was named a finalist in the 2009 Focus on Excellence Awards in the Best Coach and/or Bus Operator category. These awards, organised by FOCUS on behalf of the industry and sponsored by WesBank, pay tribute to the leading companies within the transport industry each year. Hylton Ross also won PMR Africa’s Golden Arrow award in 2008 and 2009 and has been lauded for its efforts to stimulate the economic growth and development of the Western Cape province.
But Van Doorn does not claim to have achieved these accolades single-handedly. “We rely on partnerships, such as that with Irizar Southern Africa, which goes back to 2006. We used to deal with Scania and Volvo; we now have an exclusive partnership with Irizar Southern Africa and only utilise the Mercedes-Benz chassis,” he tells FOCUS.
There are a number of reasons why Hylton Ross has chosen to partner with Irizar. “We run our own accredited workshop, and have been impressed with the after-sales service we receive from Irizar. Time of day has never been an issue with Irizar. When we are in need of parts or information they have always stepped up to the plate. We have found Irizar coaches to be durable, comfortable and exceptionally safe. Irizar’s bodies are definitely constructed with passenger and driver comfort in mind,” Van Doorn maintains.
According to the Hylton Ross CEO, the company’s driver-guides are all SATOUR-registered. “Furthermore, they are enthusiastic young people who easily meet and exceed industry standards. Some of our guides speak foreign languages; some tours are conducted entirely in German, for instance. All coaches feature air-conditioning, reclining seats, ablution facilities and televisions,” he reveals.
If the legacy of the World Cup turns out to be as positive as the reaction of that Dutch tourist to this country, these driver guides might be even busier in the future!