Fears for bus and coach industry post-COVID
ALMOST overnight, Northland Coach and Travel owners Janelle and Alan Hale went from having a thriving, award-winning business and preparing for one of their busiest years yet, to not knowing what the future holds, due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Caught between the transport and tourism industries, Mrs Hale said tours and charters have fallen through the cracks during the response to COVID-19.
“We either come under transport and automatically people think of trucks, and then tourism is automatically considered as the destinations where it’s assumed people will drive their own family car to visit places,” she said.
“A lot of people can’t travel on their own and have to travel in groups by coach and that’s our business, but at the moment it’s a total mess.”
To highlight the difficulties faced by the coach industry, Mrs Hale said while Destination NSW had confirmed there was no number limit on the number of people that can travel on a coach or bus, as soon as they leave the vehicle they can’t be in groups greater than 20.
“As soon as our group steps off the bus they can only be in groups of 20, and restaurants and cafes are restricted in their booking numbers,” she said.
“Museums and other destinations we regularly visit also have number restrictions so even if we did have a full coach we can’t really take people anywhere.
“We could have reduced numbers on our trips but that would make the cost higher.
“There’s just so many grey areas for us in this industry, and it’s just so sad because one moment we were a thriving business and the next it was the complete opposite.”
Mrs Hale said the coach industry was keen to see JobKeeper extend past its slated September cut-off, as well as government support in reducing costs of registration and green slips.
“We’re trying to support regional tourism but there’s another side to that which is the bus and coach industry,” Mrs Hale said.
“A lot of bus and coach companies will be forced to wind up over this which will mean there won’t be transport options for school charters, sporting groups, not just the people who want to travel.
“This year we were doing the best we had in years, confidence in coach travel was up and we were booked solid. Come March, that was all gone.
“We are still here and we are still operating, just differently, but we need all the support we can get.”