Member Spotlight: Hovertravel

When we launched HoverCare we had two guiding principles: firstly we said publicly that accessibility is a journey. We fully accepted that we did not have a finished product or service, and we expected our initiative to continue to evolve.

The second principle was to make sure we listened to a broad range of people. We have consistently made sure that we are in contact with regulators, charities, lobbying groups and the customers themselves. Too often we see companies adopting a rigid policy which might not have the ability to adapt to new information.

The Government has set a target for the UK to become the world’s most accessible tourism destination by 2025. Do you think enough is being done to achieve this?

I think we can always do more and always do better – as I mentioned this is a journey and we want the experience of hovercraft flight to be accessible to all. We have been proactive in sharing best practice with various other transport companies and we are more than happy to engage with anyone trying to improve their accessibility.

COVID-19 put travel on hold for much of the past year, but we were proud to see Hovertravel playing a significant role in supporting the local community. What was the organisation’s approach to the pandemic and were there challenges in pivoting your operations so quickly?

At the start of pandemic we were in the very unusual position of asking customers not to travel, but also in the position of working with our closest competitors to ensure a lifeline link remained open for the Isle of Wight. Thanks to the support of our shareholders and our dedicated team, we remained operating – albeit with a severely reduced timetable – to keep key workers and essential supplies flowing across the Solent. At several times during the past year we have been the only foot passenger service running across the Solent.

As well as carrying record amounts of Royal Mail, PPE and other medical supplies, we developed a rapid off-island transfer service for stretcher patients with the NHS. This meant improved medical outcomes for patients and significant time-savings for an already stretched Island ambulance service. Most importantly, although this service was born during COVID it still continues to operate successfully today.

Hovertravel has also been recognised for its outstanding customer service, with Lorry Middleton being awarded Tourism Superstar 2020. As a transport provider, what are your top tips for ensuring your customers have a great experience?

Lorry is a customer service rock star and his willingness to help customers underpins his friendly approach. Hovertravel prides itself on being present for its customers and exceeding expectations throughout the whole experience. As with HoverCare our top tip is to listen – your customers are your best source of market intelligence. We actually created an informal user group which is an invaluable resource for receiving feedback.

Finally, with the country reopening for travel what are you most looking forward to in the coming months?

Personally, I am excited to see people go out and enjoy themselves – after a challenging year I think we all deserve some quality time off. Professionally, I’m really looking to meeting with old colleagues again and starting to talk about opportunities for growth.

You can find out more about Hovertravel, including their HoverCare scheme here.