Further restrictions have dented coach operators’ confidence in the pace of industry recovery in 2021 but there is still some slender optimism within the sector, a survey carried out by routeone that closed in early February has shown.
As with previous examinations of the state of the industry, responses were dominated by small operators. The average number of full-time staff that they employ is 13 and the average number of part-timers is six. February’s survey follows one conducted in December 2020. Some questions were common across both, but others were not.
Restrictions’ impact on coach industry shown by survey
In a headline figure, a smaller proportion of operators that responded in February were actively trading than was the case in December 2020, at 53% against 73%, respectively.
On a more positive note, 39% of respondents believe that their rates will increase this year, against just 4% that think they will drop. 27% believe that rates will stay static. 30% are undecided.
News about the speed of vaccination rollout continues to influence some customers’ appetite to travel. February’s survey shows that 25% of respondents have received more tourism or private hire enquiries since news of the vaccine broke. In December 2020 the figure covering only tourism-related enquiries was a mere 8%.
Predictably, the ongoing virtual closedown of the industry means that insolvency worries remain significant. 51% of respondents in February believe that their business is at severe or moderate risk of insolvency, compared to 47% in December 2020.
25% now believe that their business is at low risk of insolvency, down from 32%. The percentage of respondents who see no risk of insolvency stays at 16%, while more – 8% in February compared to 4% in December 2020 – are unsure of their level of risk.
Safety taken seriously by the coach industry, survey shows
The survey also underlines how seriously coach operators are taking cleanliness and virus mitigation measures. Of all respondents:
- 83% have provided PPE to staff
- 73% have provided signage or instructions for passengers
- 55% have changed boarding procedures
- 43% allocate specific seats
- 40% have provided PPE to passengers
- 24% have installed screens
- 22% have installed air filtration systems
- 6% have carried out none of the above.
Concern about possible redundancies increases
Redundancies are now more likely when the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme ends, respondents believe. 36% think that shedding staff is extremely or very likely, compared to 19% in December 2020.
A further 23% believe it is somewhat likely; in December 2020 that figure was 22%. Not very likely accounted for 28% of responses in February against 34% a month earlier. Highly unlikely was chosen by 13% of February’s respondents against 25% in December 2020.
The number of coaches that are off the road is substantial, the February survey shows. No less than 76% of respondents have over half of their vehicles laid up. Over 50% have four-fifths or more of their coaches out of use. Just 7% of respondents report that their full fleet is on the road:
- 91-100% of their vehicles off the road: 42% of responses
- 81-90% of their vehicles off the road: 9% of responses
- 71-80% of their vehicles off the road: 10% of responses
- 61-70% of their vehicles off the road: 9% of responses
- 51-60% of their vehicles off the road: 6% of responses
- 41-50% of their vehicles off the road: 7% of responses
- 21-30% of their vehicles off the road: 3% of responses
- 11-20% of their vehicles off the road: 2% of responses
- 1-10% of their vehicles off the road: 5% of responses
- No vehicles off the road: 7% of responses.