Recently the Government set up a Special Committee on COVID-19 Response at the Oireachtas to look at the management and challenges presented by the Coronavirus. As companies and businesses try to get back to some type of normality, the Coach Transport & Transport Council (CTTC) had an opportunity to put member’s concerns to the Committee as they prepare to get buses and coaches back in service. Here is some the issues presented.
“Private bus operators are an essential part of scheduled bus services in Ireland. In normal times they carry millions of passengers to work, school and college, employing many thousands of people nationwide and contributing millions in taxes,” the statement began.
Other points of note included:
- COVID-19 has had a huge impact on the demand for services. Coach tourism has ceased and the numbers of passengers on scheduled services has drastically reduced. As a result, operators are faced with significant financial difficulties.
- As the crisis recedes passenger demand will increase, but initially not to the extent whereby scheduled services will break even. If Government does not step in to cover the short-term revenue shortfall then some services may disappear forever. The impact would be very damaging to the economy.
- Coach tourism normally contributes in the order of €400 million to the Irish economy. This has ceased due to COVID-19, and is unlikely to return for the remainder of 2020, with a partial return in 2021. The publication of guidelines for social distancing requirement would provide some certainty for potential clients and would help the sector to recover. In addition, tour operators and individuals typically start booking in Autumn for the following year’s summer holiday. Therefore, by Autumn the CTTC needs clarity about the position in relation to quarantine restrictions. “Ireland is open for business” as a tourist destination will be an easier message to sell if there is greater clarity on the issue of quarantine.
The Coach Travel Tourism sector has drawn up an action plan to enable it to recover from the crisis. Of key relevance to the Oireachtas Committee’s deliberations were:
- The need for additional Government support for the sector
- A new Transport Task Force should be instigated, charged with planning for transport provision in the post-COVID-19 landscape
- Supports should be put in place to enable schedule services to operate and survive
“Ireland depends on the private bus and coach sector to move our tourists, our workers and our school children around. Without support now, the sector will be structurally damaged and may not be able to resume its role as the backbone of the Irish transport system,” emphasised John Halpenny, Chairman, CTTC.