The RHA is continuing to call for more help from Government for coach operators in response to the impact of the Omicron variant. The trade body is pushing for the eligibility criteria for the Omicron Hospitality and Leisure Grant (OHLG) to be extended to include coaches in order to bring the sector in line with other parts of the leisure industry.
The reason given for exclusion from the grant is that coaches are mobile and don’t have fixed rate-paying premises, meaning operators are losing out on the opportunity for support. Additionally, the RHA believe the Additional Restrictions Grant (ARG) administered by local authorities is often not distributed to coach operators when they apply and is a ‘postcode lottery’ depending on the council area. It said previous experience of this grant scheme has shown that coach operators have had varying degrees of success in accessing it, and that updated guidance to local authorities on coach operator eligibility is urgently needed.
The RHA also noted that there is an inequality between nations which it says creates imbalances in the market, since coach operators in Wales and Scotland can access support funds but cannot currently in England. The industry has incurred further substantial losses since the Omicron variant took hold in December and many coach tour operators have received little in the way of Government support since the beginning of the pandemic.
Writing to the Secretary of State at the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Kwasi Kwarteng, RHA Executive Director Rod McKenzie said: “Coach operators in the UK directly employ around 42,000 people and contribute £14 billion to the UK economy. Coach tourism alone contributes £6 billion to the economy. The Government’s removal of temporary travel restrictions implemented in response to Omicron was welcome, but it is clear these latest measures will have a lingering impact on consumer confidence that will soften demand and weaken the recovery over much of the winter period. Our coach operator members have experienced a wave of cancellations with dozens of tours cancelled and millions in lost turnover.
“Coach operators are determined to play their part in the economic recovery getting people to places and attractions across the UK. As new variants continue to present challenges for coach operators and the tourism sector, we urge you to extend the support available to the coach industry, to cover losses and protect jobs whilst we double down on our efforts to defeat this virus.”