Do you remember when we had buses full of American tourists?

Coach sector calls for bailout to help save the 1,720 operators who carry over 27m passengers per year

Turnover in the coach sector has fallen 95%, according to a report from economist Jim Power, equating to a loss of €586m. Photograph: iStock

Turnover in the coach sector has fallen 95%, according to a report from economist Jim Power, equating to a loss of €586m. Photograph: iStock

 

Ordinarily in the summer months you wouldn’t travel too far in Kerry or Connemara before seeing a bus filled with American tourists.

Some of these will be luxury buses, booked out by one family or a particularly big group. Others will be tours put on by tour operators. What both of these have in common is that they are welcome sights in the Republic’s tourist hotspots because those clientele are more than willing to part with their cash.

Of course, this year all will be different. There won’t be many, if any, buses ferrying foreign tourists around, and, with good reason, policy-makers and the media have jumped to examine the consequences for hotels, restaurants and airlines.

Yet there is one intrinsic part of the chain that will be affected like no other and that is the coach operators themselves.

While airlines rely on tourists they have the back-up of business travel and those who need to travel. And rural restaurants, while they are hoping that those on their “staycation” holidays will come through their doors, still have the locals if the worst comes to the worst.

Coach operators, however, have little in the way of back-up in the summer months. Timely, then, that the sector should call for a bailout to help save the 1,721 operators who carry over 27 million passengers per year, almost as many as travelled through Dublin Airport in 2019.

Turnover in the sector has fallen 95 per cent, according to a report from economist Jim Power, equating to a loss of €586 million.

The issue for the sector is not so much that it has lost money – point out a sector in the Republic that hasn’t as a result of the pandemic. The issue is that recovery for coach operators will be much more painful.

Notwithstanding the fact that they will do little in the way of business this summer, in the absence of a vaccine there will be a reluctance to seek out their services for the old reliables like school tours or football matches in the autumn or winter.

So while you’re rambling through the busless countryside this summer, spare a thought for the Americans who can’t make it to Ireland this year. You may not rely on them, but the tourism economy most certainly does.