Coach sector facing challenges
The Covid-19 crisis has proved to be highly challenging for the transport industry with operators and their staff throughout the UK acting quickly and decisively to keep services running, as the pandemic has engulfed the country over the past months. In terms of economic impact, coach operators have been hit particularly hard as the public health emergency effectively halted all forms of coach travel.
Employing over 42,000 people, the coach sector has lost this year’s peak summer season, which is critical for the profitability of many tour operators, due to lockdown restrictions. This has significantly curtailed demand for coach tourism, while essential social distancing rules reducing the number of passengers permitted to travel on a vehicle, has made many coach services financially unviable. Looking ahead, the reopening of schools this autumn and reactivation of school coach services should provide a much-needed boost to the sector.
A campaign started in July on Facebook to draw attention to the plight of the UK coach industry has attracted more than 7,000 supporters. Honk for Hope UK was started by Jenna Rush, owner of North East Coach Travel, with the aim of urging government ministers to introduce a package of support for the coach sector. The campaign’s organisers fear that at least 40% of all UK coach drivers could be redundant by the end of this year if financial aid is not provided, while many coach operators risk failure.
Honk for Hope UK has staged peaceful protests in a number of cities, including London, Cardiff, Blackpool, Bristol and Edinburgh. In the capital, over 500 coaches met at five assembly points before forming a convoy, which travelled along the Thames via Parliament Square, in order to create awareness among politicians.
John Dwight, Sales Director of Imperial Engineering, which has been supplying the UK’s coach sector with OE parts for more than half a century, said:
“This is a desperately difficult time for the UK coach operators and their staff as the pandemic has brought the sector to a standstill, at a time when it should be booming. The Honk for Hope movement has been very well supported and has played an important role in raising awareness of the difficulties of this important sector, which could have far reaching consequences for tourism and the wider economy.”