In the lead up to Christmas, following Government announcements in regard to the Omicron strain of Covid-19, coach operators reported high levels of booking cancellations, leading to the CPT contacting the Government on behalf of its members
Graham Vidler, Chief Executive of the Confederation of Passenger Transport (CPT) has written to Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak to air his concerns about the growing number of coach trip and private hire cancellations during the Christmas and New Year period and beyond as a result of fears around the new Omicron Covid-19 strain.
The letter, dated 17 December 2021, said: “As the Omicron variant of Covid-19 takes hold in the UK and people begin to prioritise social interactions, the coach sector is once again facing an incredibly difficult period.
“Coaches play a vital role in moving people from A to B. Millions of visits are made each year by coach to attractions and places across the UK contributing £14bn to the UK tourism economy in 2019. They also play a vital role in getting 600,000 children to school safely and providing other essential services, including one million rail replacement journeys.
“Operators saw demand for tourism collapse during 2020 and for much of 2021 but had slowly begun to return as customer confidence grew, but over recent days this confidence has been dented and operators have been hit by mass cancellations. My members are reporting that, at what is traditionally a busy time of year in advance of a quieter winter period, they are seeing cancellations of on average 40%, with some operators seeing much higher levels. Operators are also reporting to us that they are seeing £10,000s of business being cancelled in the last few days alone. These levels of cancellation are not sustainable for a sector, which has been hard hit during the pandemic but was unjustifiably excluded from the support offered to the wider tourism and leisure sector.
“I was heartened by your officials’ comments that the Treasury would look to ensure that the £250 million of grant funding, which it believes has not yet been handed out by local authorities, is given to businesses that need it. This unquestionably must include coach operators and could be resolved by making it explicit in guidance to local authorities that coach operators are eligible.
“This approach would provide the industry with breathing space until the return of business in what will hopefully be a few weeks’ time and ensure that the industry can gear up quickly to help the economy recover by getting people to places and attractions across the UK.”
A spokesperson for CPT added: “We are unfortunately hearing reports of cancellations from operators across the country at what is traditionally a very busy time of year. Operators had slowly begun to recover from an incredibility difficult 20 months, with significant disruption to their businesses but inexplicably a lack of government support.
“With people being encouraged to minimise social interactions it is inevitable that hospitality, tourism and leisure businesses will suffer. It is vital that these sectors, which includes coach operators, are given the support they need as a matter of urgency to help project 10,000s of jobs.”