The depth of work undertaken by members of the coach industry to secure promotion and support during its hour of need has been further illuminated by the grass roots Coach Crisis online campaign. It is led by Maynes Coaches of Buckie Director Kevin Mayne and his daughter Rebecca.
Mr Mayne is among the many sector representatives across England, Scotland and Wales who have each lobbied politicians, presented evidence, leveraged social media and given large amounts of time to convey the importance of government backing for the industry. Questions have been asked in Parliament and valuable media coverage has been gained thanks to them.
Coach Crisis is part of wider promotion of industry credentials
Coach Crisis was founded in March. It has since reached over 45,000 people through social media. It is an integral part of wider industry efforts to raise coaching’s profile. That work also includes the Back Britain’s Coaches campaign from the Confederation of Passenger Transport (CPT) and operator-led Honk for Hope protests.
“Coach Crisis has allowed a UK-wide push using information from operators. The gathering of that has taken a huge amount of time,” says Mr Mayne. Through collaboration with CPT Scotland, hundreds of emails have been sent to individuals across the political spectrum.
Those messages have contained figures that illustrate coaching’s contribution to the economy. Mr Mayne points out that 42% of tourism in Scotland is reliant on coaches. An average five-day group tour generates an overall passenger spend of over £16,000, he says.
To that end, he and other operators, again in partnership with CPT Scotland, have lobbied Fergus Ewing MSP, Cabinet Secretary for Rural Economy, to convince the Scottish Government to deliver support. A further meeting with Mr Ewing is planned.
‘Collaborative, cross-industry approach must continue in the future’
But while each of these lines of communication may serve to help save the industry from existential change, operators must also each be prepared to closely examine their own businesses if they are to assure their individual futures, advises Mr Mayne.
“Our industry has always responded in a time of crisis. Now is the chance to look at ourselves and to make a future for everyone. We need to work as one to make it happen.
“If we do not, we will continue towards high costs and low rates. That will drive the industry further backwards at a time we must push it forwards.”
Locally, Maynes saw the loss of an important client in David Urquhart Travel during the pandemic. Although tourism is now starting to reopen, limitations on guest numbers at attractions and social distancing measures mean that running coaches remains extremely challenging.
To counter both of those difficulties, Maynes had to look closely at what it does. It has been moving staff and patients under contract to the NHS. Key workers have also been transported. That has included hires from Cornwall to Aberdeen – a distance of over 850 miles – in connection with the oil industry.
To fill the hole led by the end of David Urquhart Travel, the Buckie operator has used downtime created by the pandemic to form Maynes Holidays. A brochure containing tours in the UK and Ireland has been compiled. “That has been a great step for our company,” says Mr Mayne.
Industry cannot afford to relax efforts to ensure its voice is heard
Despite that positivity, Mr Mayne suggests that there are currently around 600 coaches in the UK that have been repossessed. The total includes those that were part of the Specialist Leisure Group, which collapsed in May and claimed many jobs in the coaching and hotel sectors.
The first green shoots are now appearing, Mr Mayne continues. But efforts from operators and their trade associations to generate promotion of the coach industry must not be overlooked, he says.
“Without our voice being heard and understood, a vital cog in travel might become smaller, to a point where some areas will no longer have a local coach company that they depend on. Ministers say they understand. Now it’s time they stand with us and show support to coaches.”