A reintroduction of lockdowns was hardly a surprise, but it is nonetheless a considerable challenge for the sector, pushing thoughts of any recovery well into 2021. With severely worsening infection rates and a frightening death toll, coach and bus businesses have no option but to pare back to providing only the essential services that are required to keep a fraction of the UK’s public transport network operating. The emphasis has to be to hunker down for a further period until there is clear light at the end of the tunnel.
Coach operators in particular will be forgiven for feeling distraught at seeing their spring tour launches in jeopardy. It is of course possible that we will begin to see some activity possible before Easter, especially if the government can achieve its vaccination targets for priority groups, but all everyone can do for now is to plan and hope.
The renewal of lockdown also brings the big issue of support for the coach sector back into play. While the treasury rejected it last time round, that was before we entered the new tougher regimes in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland which has stopped all leisure coaching for the foreseeable future.
An urgent review of the way that government grants are made to the tourism sector is required. The decision to exclude coach operators from this support by not defining them as part of the tourism and leisure sector, never made sense and now needs to be resolved without further delay to enable firms to cling on.
We are all looking forward to a strong recovery when it comes with huge pent-up demand, but, as has been the situation since March 2020, the challenge is to ensure your business is still there when the upturn comes to make the most of it.