Lifting of restrictions does little for the Coach Tourism sector – CTTC

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The group calls for enhanced Government support as sector faces unprecedented crisis with international bookings at an all time low

The country’s leading representative body for coach tour operators, the CTTC, has expressed its “dismay” at the announcement of the latest lifting of restrictions which it says “is too little, too late” for the sector. The CTTC is Ireland’s largest representative body for coach touring companies and private bus operators. Its members are the leading providers of scheduled services, international tours and school transport. The private bus and coach sector is responsible for carrying over 75 million passengers per year, including 2 million overseas tourists which supports 11,000 jobs, and contributes more than €600 million to the Irish economy. While this announcement suggests that hope is on the horizon for many industries, trading conditions continue to deteriorate significantly for the private bus and coach sector.  With the total collapse of the tourism market over the past 18 months, the fleets of many operators has been at a complete standstill for all of that time. While incomes have stagnated, coach tour operators are still encountering the same level of fixed costs as they were pre-pandemic, with some even witnessing an increase in these costs. This situation will continue for some time notwithstanding the fact aviation will restart later this summer. The nuances of international bookings means that it will be late next year – at the earliest – before conditions change. 

The CTTC is now calling on the Government to provide enhanced funding under the Business Continuity Scheme, and also, to ensure that longer lead-in times for restriction-related announcements are facilitated to allow coach tour operators sufficient time to plan for international tourist bookings. The sector is warning that if the Government fails to act on their calls, coach tour operators will no longer be able to guarantee the provision of their services – putting the country’s economic and social recovery post-pandemic, at serious risk.

Chairman of the CTTC John Halpenny said: “This announcement will do little to reassure our members of their survival into the next market year. 2020 was enormously challenging for coach tour operators, but 2021 has turned out to be an even worse trading year, and many of our members are now facing a real prospect of collapse.”

“In March of this year, the CTTC commissioned a survey of its membership which made for startling reading. It found that 90% of private operators will have to either reduce supply or permanently close a part of their business by the end of this year. This is incredibly alarming – coach tourism is an integral part of our international offering and an essential component of the Irish tourism product. If operators are forced to close their businesses, the consequences will be grave. The recovery of both the domestic and international tourism sectors will be seriously undermined, and the impact on our transport infrastructure will be devastating,” added John.

“On behalf of our members, I am appealing to the Government to recognise the unique challenges facing our coach tour members and enhance the funding provided under the Business Continuity Scheme in the next Budget and ensure that longer lead in times for restriction-related announcements are guaranteed, to allow for coach tourism bookings to be made, and for our operators to have sufficient time to plan.”

“While many industries are set to benefit from today’s announcement, the coach tourism sector has received no such assurances with much dependent on the return of international travel which undoubtedly will take some time. Without an urgent enhancement of Government funding, the survival of our industry remains uncertain, and the continuity of service provision can no longer be guaranteed,” concluded John Halpenny, Chairman, CTTC.

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