Time to tackle the coach tourism crisis

Everything has changed in a remarkably short time. All of us have had to adjust our working and home lives in a way that was unimaginable just a few weeks ago.

We have managed to get this issue of Bus and Coach Professional into print and distributed, although we understand that many of you may be working away from your normal base, so have also made it available online. 

We have condensed this issue to make it more manageable to produce, but also because some of the regular content we prepared seems less relevant at this precise point in time. We do report on positive measures that have been taken by government, operators and local bodies to try and maintain a base level of bus networks in order to provide essential services for key workers.

I am acutely aware however, that some sections of the industry have so far received little help from government, in particular those whose primary, or only focus is coach tourism. These operators have had their business curtailed by government action and while they will benefit from the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme for ‘furloughed’ workers, they continue to see significant cash disappearing from their business for ongoing overheads, and will struggle to maintain a viable business if the effective ban on their businesses goes on for many months.

What is making the situation worse for coach tour operators is the requirement within the Package Travel Regulations for them to refund customers in cash where tours have had to be cancelled. These rules were designed for an entirely different scenario and are clearly not fit for purpose at a time where governments across the world have imposed ‘lockdowns’ and banned ‘non essential travel’. Coach tourism trade bodies including CTA, CPT/BCH have been actively lobbying government for a temporary change to the regulations in concert with other key tourism organisations including ABTA, but as yet they are still waiting for a response.

There is a strong consensus backing the Government’s approach on lockdown, and support for many of the measures it has taken to support people and businesses through this, but withholding a perfectly sensible relaxation of regulations, which would help ensure there is a coach holiday sector left at the end of this crisis, is unforgivable.