The Confederation of Passenger Transport (CPT) has called for a package of measures to support the coach tourism industry. That includes a cash injection of £65m per month for the rest of 2020 as the sector engages in “a fight for its future.”

The money would help the industry to cover its costs for the rest of the year. CPT’s proposals call for it to taper off in line with an expected increase in future bookings. As part of its call to government for support for coach tourism, CPT also wants to see:

  • A flexible Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS), which would allow staff to remain furloughed until business levels return to normal
  • Confirmation that coach tour operators are to be treated as leisure businesses for the purpose of coronavirus COVID-19 support.

The £65m support package has been calculated on a per-coach basis. Operators would receive a payment for each vehicle at the following rates. They assume that CJRS remains in place throughout 2020:

  • For coaches with 17 or more passenger seats, £7,500 per month for April to June, payable in May; then £6,750 per month for July to September, payable in August; and £3,750 per month for October to December, payable in November
  • For smaller coaches with between nine and 16 seats, £3,750 per month for April to June, payable in May; then £3,375 per month for July to September, payable in August; and £1,875 per month for October to December, payable in November.

Just 2% of coaches that would normally be involved in tourist trips are currently being used. The industry does not expect bookings to return to pre-coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic levels until summer 2021. That has led CPT to describe the sector as suffering from “an 18-month winter.”

It adds that despite coaches being mothballed and most staff being subject to CJRS, operators face costs of £1,900 per day on average.

That impact has been compounded by cancellation rates and the government’s failure thus far to agree that coach tourism is part of the leisure sector. If it did so, operators would be eligible for a business rates holiday and a grant.

CPT says that the 42,000 jobs in the coach tourism sector are under threat, as are many more that depend on it. Should coach tourism collapse, it will also result in a significant increase in the carbon footprint of tourism.

“Coach tourism is in a fight for its future, with a complete collapse of bookings for the summer period and the expected quieter winter to come,” says CPT Chief Executive Graham Vidler.

“This injection of cash into the industry, along with continuation of the furlough scheme, is vital. Without it, many operators will go under as a result of the 18-month winter they are facing with little to no bookings.

“The failure to classify the sector as leisure is deeply disappointing and it shows a worrying lack of understanding from government about its role. That must be reviewed immediately.”

In April CPT launched its Back Britain’s Coaches campaign, which called on the government to support the coach industry.