Coach tourism has run out of road

 

Sir, – In pre-pandemic times, the private coach tourism sector was responsible for transporting two million visitors around Ireland every year, spurring on economic activity and supporting jobs and businesses right across the regions. With quarantining imposed and public nervousness about the virus impact high, this year will be very different, as the sector is on its knees and urgently needs a lifeline in the upcoming July stimulus package.

Our future is bleak. The 95 per cent drop in revenue incurred by operators will lead to many regional Irish coach operators going out of business, and the collapse of these will undoubtedly have a ripple effect on local economies across the country. Fewer coach operators mean fewer coach tourist routes in post-pandemic Ireland, which in turn means more localities visited less frequently and fewer local hospitality businesses benefitting from the two million tourists we carry annually.

Without direct State support for coach tourism operators, we will not survive this difficult period and be there to spur local economic activity after the pandemic. General business supports such as commercial rates waivers do not come anywhere close to the assistance we need, which is why we urge decision-makers to devise a package of direct supports. The Government borrowed €1.5 billion last week as part of preparations for the July stimulus package. The proposed €32 million subsidy we seek represents a small percentage of this sum, but it is an investment that would reverberate positively through the tourism industry and across local communities as it will enable our members to keep Ireland moving.

We are heartened to learn that speaking in the Dáil on July 9th, Minister for Transport Eamon Ryan recognised the impact of the halt of coach tourism this summer and the difficulties coach operators will face this winter. We welcome the awareness but stress the acute need for immediate steps on the part of the Government to sustain the sector. Because without Ireland’s coach tourism sector being to the forefront of Ministers’ minds, we may very well sink to a place from where we cannot return, representing one of the biggest missed opportunities on Ireland’s road to recovery and prosperity. We therefore urge our leaders that you do not allow Ireland’s coach tourism sector to lie dormant. Acting now will help secure our future and all the hundreds of thousands of jobs that depend on us while we retain our place as a tourism destination on the global stage. – Yours, etc,

JOHN HALPENNY,

Chairman,

Coach Tourism and

Transport Council

of Ireland,

Swords,Co Dublin.