Government are faced with a stark choice; sectoral-wide loan freeze for coach tour buses or devastate the sector. Coach travel companies bring 2 million visitors to Ireland so should be at the forefront of the Tourism Ministers’ minds as they look to rebuild Ireland’s tourism industry.
The Coach Tourism & Transport Council of Ireland (CTTC) is calling for a loan freeze on repayments for coach tour buses in light of current Government restrictions and national aviation policy which is causing limited international travel. The group contends this is essential in order to give its members a chance to recover and be ready for tourism seasons post-pandemic.
The CTTC has said that with limited income coming into the industry a sectoral-wide loan freeze makes sense. With many operators having invested heavily in their fleet in advance of this year’s tourism season so many previously viable businesses have been severely exposed. Coach tour buses cost up to, and in excess of €300,000 each. On an average year coach tour operators transport two million tourists around the country.
The CTTC is Ireland’s largest representative body for coach touring companies and private bus operators. In total there are over 1,700 bus operators in Ireland, carrying over 75m passengers per year, supporting over 11,000 jobs and contributing €600m to the economy.
Commenting on the ongoing situation John Halpenny Chairperson of the CTTC, said: “Coach Tourism has been severely hammered since the pandemic began. Operators businesses have been decimated with no real hope on the horizon due and owing to Government policy on international travel, aviation and quarantining. These businesses urgently need direct support in the shape of a sectoral-wide loan freeze which would go some way to assisting members for the foreseeable future.”
“Before the coronavirus outbreak hit, members made a very strong start to 2020, with a high number of advance bookings, and many having expanded their fleets but the impact of the pandemic has been unprecedented and like nothing the industry has ever experienced in its trading history.”
“The reality is coach tour operators do not have the luxury of recalibrating their operations as they have invested heavily in luxury fleet which is not conducive to day-to-day runs. Operators purchased stock at the outset of 2020 expecting to get a long summer out of it but now drivers are out of work, and with no return on investment, there will be no income forthcoming until 2021 at the very earliest. It is a slow hard road for this operators which is why a sectoral loan repayment freeze is critical for them at this time.”
“The seriousness of the situation is reflected in the fact that over 90% of bus and coach operators have been in touch with their banks and financial institutions because of COVID-19. Of those, 90% have sought to change the terms of vehicle loans.”
“We must remember that coach tourism supports not only frontline jobs, but also a significant supply chain including retailers, manufacturers, food producers and distributors, event practitioners and organisers, performers, artists, cleaners, carpenters, chefs and so many more. We are crucial to regional and local economies and we hope Government and the CEOs of the national banks have the foresight to see the importance of the sector for our once prospering, now diminishing economy.”