Diverse life stories behind the welcoming smiles on Transdev’s York red bus tours – and summer recruitment drive means there’s room on top for more
They first came to York as tourists and fell in love with its world-famous sights – and now, they’re telling its amazing story to “staycationers”.
Meet Kel, Ross, Juliette and Nicholas – part of the team behind Transdev’s City Sightseeing York’s red open top tour buses, which are enjoying a busy early summer as the UK’s tourism industry looks to bounce back in summer 2021.
The four have diverse roots in Italy, Canada, France and Ecuador, but it’s the bus route around iconic landmarks including York Minster, Clifford’s Tower, Dick Turpin’s Grave and more which brings them together as part of City Sightseeing York’s tours team – and now, they’re hoping to welcome newcomers on board with a summer recruitment drive.
Canadian Ross Sweeney grew up in Halifax, Nova Scotia, moving in his 20s to Toronto. Romance played its part in bringing 43-year-old Ross to York’s red tour buses.
I went to a Toronto physiotherapy clinic and saw Gem, who was based there on a work visa from the UK. After she returned to Britain we stayed in touch, before meeting up again in London, and then in Yorkshire which is when I first fell in love with York.
I moved to the UK and we lived in Essex for a while – then Gem found a post in York in 2017, and that’s when I joined City Sightseeing, firstly with the sales team, then as a supervisor before becoming Tourism Manager. I now work with many of York’s visitor attractions to form partnerships so we can promote each other – a win-win for our city.
Student Juliette Brenot left her home city of Metz in north-eastern France two years ago to study English Language and Linguistics at the University of York – and jumped at the chance to join City Sightseeing York’s customer service team at the Exhibition Square tour stand in September 2020.
Juliette, 20, speaks fluent English and German as well as her native French, and hopes to welcome European visitors back to York’s red tour buses when travel restrictions ease. Juliette says: “When I was 12, I dreamt of living here in the UK, and having visited York as a tourist and loving the city so much, I was very happy to win a place to study here.
“A pre-requisite to succeed with the red bus tours is that you have to be able to talk with visitors and make them feel happy and welcome. I’m just waiting to see more French customers!”
Distance is no object for Nicholas Sanchez, who swapped his home city of Ambato in the central Andean valley of Ecuador for the Cayman Islands before arriving in York at the age of 9 in 2012. Nicholas is working with the City Sightseeing York team until September, when he begins a degree course in automotive engineering at Coventry University.
“We see York through the eyes of a tourist”, Nicholas explains. “The architecture, history and how it’s been completely preserved make it special, and it has a homely feel with a great welcome. Working with the tour bus team is giving me plenty of insight into how to look after customers, and since April we’ve seen a steadily rising number of people coming to discover York with us.”
Operations Supervisor Kel Pizzuti’s father came to Britain as a post-war Italian immigrant, living at first in Bedford before moving to Nottingham, where Kel, 35, began a career on the buses with local firm Trent Barton.
Last month, Kel was drawn north by the opportunity to live and work in York, and he sees this summer as a great opportunity for the city to enjoy a tourism boom.
“I can see this summer being a great one if the May school holidays were anything to go by,” says Kel. “You get confidence that things are coming back, safely of course.
“We’re recruiting now for this summer, and the people we’re looking for will have the ability to tell York’s story in an engaging and entertaining way. We do have an actress and a performance artist in our team, but it’s not a pre-requisite to have been on the stage – the most important thing is a friendly and welcoming personality, and a love for this amazing city.”
Full details of all City Sightseeing York tours and advance bookings are available online at: https://www.yorkcitysightseeing.com.