Coach companies across the Falkirk district are joining their trade body in calling for urgent help and support to save businesses within the industry from the impact of Covid-19.
Alongside the Confederation of Passenger Transport (CPT), they are urging the Scottish Government to act now to tackle the impact the current pandemic is having on coach travel and tourism.
And the CPT is warning that the coach sector’s viability is under significant strain.
Bryans Coaches Ltd in Denny is just one of many coach operators around the country raising concerns over the industry’s future.
Ross Bryans, from Bryans Coaches and vice chair of CPT Scotland, explained the sector has witnessed a closure of every aspect of its work from tours around Scotland, day trips and private hires to home to school work, school trips and football and other major events.
Its fleet of 14 coaches are currently parked up in the yard with no work for the foreseeable future.
Mr Bryans said: “We and many operators like us have seen an almost total loss of business, not only during this initial Covid-19 isolation phase but also throughout the longer tourism season and even into the remainder of 2020.
“It’s not just the coach companies which are going to suffer, but it will affect places like the Falkirk Wheel, the Kelpies and Stirling Castle, which see a lot of coach trips visiting.”
Although welcoming the measures outlined so far by the UK and Scottish Governments, the CPT says further assistance is needed to help cover day to day business costs.
And with the prospect of the lockdown wiping out the entirety of the 2020 summer season, the body warns the crisis in the industry will only worsen and could lead to business closures and redundancies among coach operators and the many Scottish tourist businesses they visit.
Paul White, CPT Scotland director, said: “At what is traditionally the beginning of the busiest time of year for the coach industry we are witnessing a crisis with a collapse in bookings and unprecedented cancellations.
“The coach sector is often taken for granted but it is a key part of Scotland’s sustainable tourism offering.
“This is a sector that employs 4000 people directly and essentially supports countless visitor attractions and hotels by facilitating thousands of tourist trips each day.
“We need the Scottish Government to communicate clear guidance to local authorities to support the bus and coach operators they work with.
“Short term loans will only delay financial issues. More concrete measures of assistance are required to secure the long term future of the coach sector so that it can continue to get people to school, events and tourism hotspots, taking cars off our roads and helping contribute towards the UK’s climate change and air quality goals.”
It is feared without support, many companies likely face permanent closure within the next 12 months.
Marc Crothall, Chief Executive of the Scottish Tourism Alliance said: “The urgent needs of the coach industry must not be overlooked at this critical time. I have had conversations on a daily basis with drivers and owners of coach businesses who are struggling now and will almost certainly find it overwhelmingly challenging to bounce back from the crisis as they will effectively be starting from point zero. I would urge the Scottish & UK Government to not overlook and acknowledge the concerns of the coach industry now – it is a vital part of tourism sector and plays an important part in enabling people to access Scotland’s assets and attractions and in servicing visitors arriving by air, cruise ship and other modes of transport and of course getting many of our children to and from school . While it is difficult to look at the ‘rebuild package’ at the moment, we must recognise the needs of these hugely important sectors operating within of our tourism industry now; ones who we absolutely depend on and will need again in the coming months. Financial support for those in this sector must be forthcoming now before it is too late.”