Tourism recovery at stake in fight to save private bus and coach sector

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Economic Report commissioned by the Coach Tourism & Transport Council of Ireland (CTTC) demonstrates targeted State supports are vital for coach tour operators survival

A new report by economist Jim Power, commissioned by the Coach Tourism & Transport Council of Ireland (CTTC), lays out the deep economic damage suffered by the sector during the COVID-19 pandemic and the acute need for further State support. 

The economic analysis shows that coach tour businesses, responsible for attracting 2 million international visitors ever year, are facing serious challenges without targeted financial aid and support from Government. Many operators fear they will not survive, and there will not be sufficient capacity to support Ireland’s tourism offering.  

These operators play a fundamental economic and social role in Ireland. Through the provision of their services, coach tour operators contribute €400 million to the Irish economy annually while supporting hundreds of thousands of jobs in retail, hospitality, and visitor experience the length and breadth of the country. 

The report shows that prior to COVID-19, the private bus and coach business was a low margin activity in most cases, and the shock from COVID-19 has threatened to push many operators out of business. While last year coach tour operators could help cover some parts of their costs with resources from the 2019 tourist season, in 2021 businesses in the sector no longer have such reserves. The reality is that if a significant number of private operators are forced out of business, this will have a knock on impact across other service areas to include; scheduled services, school transport and private hire. 

The report findings are stark and convey that in 2021;  

  • 70 per cent of coach tour operators believe the outlook is bleak 
  • 90 per cent of coach tour operators believe that without Government support, they will have to reduce supply or close part of their business 

Among the Report’s recommendations are:

A renewal of the Coach Tourism Business Continuity Scheme in Budget 2022. This will be integral to ensuring continuity and standard of service for overseas visitors. 

An increase in the fuel rebate offered to coach operators.

Commenting on the ongoing situation, John Halpenny, Chairperson of the CTTC said: “The CTTC’s Economic Report demonstrates that we are now faced with a situation that the survival of many coach tour businesses are under serious threat. With access to Ireland severely restricted for international tourists, and confusion around what travel will look like from here, many operators in our sector badly need life-support.” 

“Through several commitments in the Programme for Government the coalition parties showed that they recognise the vital role that private coach and bus operators play in the wider Irish transport and tourism sectors as well as the communities in which they work. While we welcome positive steps such as the introduction of the Coach Tourism Business Continuity Scheme in last year’s Stimulus Plan and the extension of the Emergency Wage Subsidy Scheme, we now ask that the Government build on its commitments through further targeted actions to help sustain struggling coach tour operators. It is crucial that operators are supported as it stands ready to play a strategic role in re-building tourism and attracting back the annualised average of 2 million international visitors which we transport to every corner of Ireland.” 

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