CTTC officials, Feargal Barton (Barton’s Transport) & Mike Buckley (Kerry Coaches) had an opportunity last week to relay their concerns and those of other Coach Operators when they addressed members of the Oireachtas Tourism Committee. The organisation are calling for urgent financial assistance to keep the industry on the road in 2022 and beyond.
Feargal Barton, said the sector received €10 million as part of a July 2020 stimulus package, but it has not been given any financial assistance this year. “Urgent” funding should be continued into 2022 to reflect the “real and actual damage done to the sector”
The CTTC is requesting supplementary supports to be provided in the upcoming Budget, to include funds to compensate for 2021 losses.
Covid-19 restrictions and successive lockdowns have brought severe disruption to the 1,700 Coach Operators in Ireland who collectively carry more than 75 million passengers per year, he said. Tour buses bring visitors to “every region”, from County Donegal’s Gweedore, to Dingle in County Kerry, with peripheral areas benefiting significantly, the Committee heard. Mike Buckley said Government funding provided so far would have covered some of the loan repayments for operators. “But our buses will have been parked up for 24 months before there is any sign of the market recovering”, said Mr. Buckley and added that the €10 million industry grant was the equivalent of putting a “bandage on a major bleed or a haemorrhage. The majority of people have huge debts, the money was just a lifeline to support people to get them into 2021”.
However, continued restrictions on international travel has meant there has been “effectively” no business this year either. Looking towards the 2022 season, there continues to be a huge amount of uncertainty and tourists may be reluctant to book large group tours, he said.
There will also be a huge staff shortage when the industry eventually recovers as many drivers have retired or moved to different industries, he concluded.
A report prepared by economist Jim Power in March 2021 found coach operator incomes had “collapsed”. The sector turned over €617 million in 2018, but throughout the pandemic the parked-up fleet depreciated in value.