Pressure mounts for government to support coaches
Further pressure has been mounted on the government to support the coach industry during the coronavirus crisis.
Trade associations representing thousands of tourist businesses, together with the Local Government Association (LGA), have written to the Chancellor of the Exchequer asking him to urgently change civil servants’ interpretation of his Coronavirus Business Rates Relief Scheme. The move comes after it was found not all businesses in the leisure sector will receive support, including coach operators, because they are not in premises which customers enter to make a purchase.
Simon Kirby of Kirby’s Coaches, a member of the Coach Tourism Association, said: “It is hard to understand the argument that coach companies do not fit the category of tourism and leisure. Our coach depot not only houses our coaches and workshop but also provides a departure point annually for approximately 10,000 people. In the last 12 months our business has undertaken 643 day excursions and holidays providing leisure experiences for 21,679 people, we have conveyed 152 groups of foreign visitors on holidays of average eight days spent around the UK, 92 rail replacement services and another 250 excursions and holiday experiences for social and school groups. We also provide employment for 25 local people.
“Our clients are highly likely to be the last group to be allowed to socialise therefore ALL of the above is in jeopardy if we aren’t given the help we as an industry need for survival.”
Confederation of Passenger Transport UK (CPT) Chief Executive, Graham Vidler, said: “The coach industry is central to the leisure sector and it is deeply disappointing that this decision has been reached. It suggests a worrying lack of understanding from government about the sector. Coach tourism contributes over £7bn a year to the UK economy helping ensure people can enjoy sporting events, festivals, theme parks, theatres and trips to tourism hotspots across the country. With the industry facing an 18-month winter this funding would have helped provide a much-needed lifeline to businesses that we need to survive the current crisis to help the leisure industry gear up quickly as soon as it is able to do so.”
John Wales, chairman of the Coach Transport Association, said: “It is staggering that government has retracted support for the coach industry on the basis it is not part of the leisure sector. Coaches play a vital role in both our transport system and the leisure industry transporting millions of people on day trips, holidays, on school trips, to theatre, music and sporting events. The industry is worth £6 billion to the economy and business casualties are mounting daily. Urgent help is needed, so the greenest form of transport can help spearhead the tourism recovery nationwide. Coach operators are definitely in the leisure sector.”