Canada West Coachlines and Sun Fun Tours
By Jeffrey Reed
In order for family to work together in a successful manner, synergy is as important as a proper business plan and unparalleled customer service. What’s more, when you work in the motor coach and travel industries, keeping up to date on legislation and industry trends adds even more challenges to running a successful family business.
In fact, Canada West Coachlines and Sun Fun Tours, family owned and operated since 1983, rely on old-fashioned family values for their continued success. With head offices in Kamloops, B.C., plus satellite offices in Kelowna, B.C. and Penticton, B.C., and a dedicated staff of 50 travel professionals, Canada West Coachlines and Sun Fun Tours continue to provide motor coach and travel services to a diverse clientele.
Like many successful business operations, Canada West Coachlines began with a strong vision from the family patriarchs – in this case, father Bernie Driedger, president and CEO, and his wife Joan, secretary/treasurer. With 64 years of service between them, the duo has seen their operations grow from a small fleet to a stable of 19 coaches, and a growing travel business which included 174 multi-day tours in 2013.
Strong Family Roots
In 1981, Bernie and Joan purchased 50 percent of Canada West Coachlines, then the remaining shares to complete 100 percent ownership in 1983. In 1995, the family purchased Sun Fun Tours.
Today, the family business also includes siblings Shelley Thiessen, general manager of Sun Fun Tours (15 years with the companies); Stacey Spencer, vice president of operations and sales, Canada West Coachlines (20 years); and their brother, Brennan Driedger, maintenance supervisor, Canada West Coachlines (16 years).
Canada West Coachlines provides transportation for Sun Fun Tours, the Kamloops Blazers Hockey Club, Wells Gray Tours, Thompson Rivers University, City of Kamloops and Sun Peaks Resort, just to name a few of its clients. The Driedgers have also provided exceptional service for seniors groups, minor hockey leagues and elementary and secondary schools. All of their coaches are school bus certified annually by a government official. They also offer a wide range of coach services, including airport and local transfers, half-day, full-day and multi-day charters.
“Sun Fun Tours destinations are strictly North American-based, with a heavy emphasis on the Pacific Northwest,” said Shelley. “Washington State and Oregon are two of our top destinations-they’re within a day’s drive. However, we are expanding into flying tours, such as New York City and Hawaii. We’re trying to appeal to any demographic. But motor coach travel will remain our bread and butter.”
“Our clients are typically the more mature traveller, 60-plus,” added Shelley, “but we have created many niche market tours, with particular emphasis on Girl Getaways and spectator sports, including pro football, hockey and baseball that have worked very well to bring down the average age of our demographic. It is always exciting to introduce the younger generation to the convenience and ease of motor coach travel.”
Busy Bus Operations
A full force of coaches – from mini-coaches to 56-passenger buses-provides a solid foundation for Canada West Coachlines. They include the Prevost H345 Deluxe Coach, the MCI Renaissance Deluxe Coach, MCI Renaissance Deluxe Coach, Prevost H340 Deluxe Coach, MCI Standard Coach, Prevost XL Standard Coach and the Sentry Goshen Mini Coach.
We are a preventive maintenance facility,” explained Bernie. “We have an excellent maintenance record, and that’s huge when it comes to motor coaches.”
Canada West Coachlines is a government-licensed facility for commercial vehicle inspections with fully-qualified, B.C.-licensed mechanics. They have years of experience and training in fleet and mechanical coach repairs and provide mechanical support for Prevost and MCI motor coaches, including air conditioning, tires, minor engine repairs and all other components.
According to Brennan, “We have five full-time mechanics for our fleet, and we go for training in Quebec every year. We have a solid reputation with the CVSE (the Vehicle Inspections and Standards program) because we get audited very year. They’re very happy with our preventive maintenance program.”
“We also provide training for our drivers in our own facilities,” added Stacey. “We bring in speakers and hire a professional company to come in and assess all of our drivers. We are a very proactive company.”
Shelley said just as training within a proactive culture is imperative to the success of Canada West Coachlines, so is continual learning at Sun Fun Tours.
“I attribute the success of our company to several things, including the continuing education that is provided with our industry association members who encourage us to remain current on trends, new destinations and products,” said Shelley. Sun Fun Tours is a member of the American Bus Association and the National Tour Association. Canada West Coachlines also includes Sun Peaks Resort, Charter Bus Connect, BC Trucking Association and Motor Coach Canada as its membership allies.
“We’re a big fan of Motor Coach Canada,” said Bernie. Stacey, a member of the BC Trucking Association Board of Directors, said membership within professional associations is “extremely crucial. We recently attended a conference in Whistler (B.C.) with Motor Coach Canada, which was invaluable. When you attend events like those, you find a lot of value. And when you belong to those groups, and you have a question in everyday business, I simply send a note to Motor Coach Canada and within 24 hours get my answer.”
Like any successful business, proper communication is also a key element of success. Working within a family unit doesn’t always spell success, but for the crew at Canada West Coachlines and Sun Fun Tours, success is all about family.
“I think the reason we’ve been successful is because of our reputation, beginning with Mom and Dad starting the company,” said Brennan. “We take great pride in the ownership, and we take every comment or criticism very seriously. After all, it’s our name on the side of the coach.”
“We’re also successful because of our diversity within our family,” added Stacey. “Bernie has a business background and has driven coaches too. Brennan drove coaches, works in our shop and brings knowledge from the roads. Shelley and I work in the office, but we’ve also gone on tours. Our customer service, maintenance and driver expertise go very well together.
“All of this gives us an edge,” said Stacey, “and we all do work very well together.”
“When you confirm your bus charter with Canada West Coachlines, your mind will be at ease!” according to the company website. “This is because not only are we experienced in the coach business, but also in the customer service business! We can handle all aspects of your reservations, including booking your sailing on BC Ferries, and making your hotel reservations if required. Our professional and helpful staff will answer any questions you may have regarding your motor coach excursion. We roll out the red carpet!”
Each member of the Driedger family and their dedicated staff are committed to excellence in their respective positions within the Canada West Coachlines and Sun Fun Tours organization. The motor coach, travel and tourism industries are ever-changing, and the Driedger team recognizes that while keeping abreast of industry trends.
And with a strong commitment to communication, the Driedgers look forward to many more years of serving clients in British Columbia and beyond.