An Aberdeen coach company is backing calls for more Government support for the industry in a bid to safeguard Scottish tourism.
Whytes Coach Tours, which was established in 1967 and is one of the biggest tour operators in Aberdeenshire, is currently weathering the storm during the coronavirus restrictions.
As schools have closed, hotels are shut, and tourists that would normally be visiting Scotland in their droves are on lockdown, coach companies, like Whytes, have been forced off the road.
Director Jason Carrison, who runs Whytes Coach Tours with David Campbell, explained the impact lockdown is having on the firm: “We rely on our own branded coach holidays and also incoming groups as we run small coach tours around Scotland for tourists and that has all stopped.
“We could see what was happening, and knew it was coming, but it was pretty much overnight and we’d had a good year up until then with a strong diary of work for the rest of the year.
“Now, like everyone else, we will have to weather the storm, and I reckon it could be March 2021 before things really start to get back to normal. We rely on the busy months of the year to see us through the quieter winter months, which means we may end up being quieter for up to an 18-month period.”
All nine coaches in the Whytes fleet are currently parked up at the depot (and have been for more than a month now) and all 15 members of its staff have been furloughed. But this situation is not unique to Whytes, it’s happening to most UK coach companies – and, with massive overheads, not all will survive.
Crucial steps need to be taken to ensure that our coach operators can stay in business during, and after, the uncertainty, says Jason.
The company director explained: “Coach operators are coming together to put pressure on the Government along with The Confederation of Passenger Transport to solve the coach crisis because the financial assistance being offered to the industry is mainly bus-related as it stands.
“We want the Government to realise the difficulties coach companies are experiencing. The actual costs to the industry are extremely high – insurance costs alone for ourselves are over £3,000-a-month and some companies will be spending £1,800-£4,000-a-month per vehicle on finance on top of that, everyone is in the same boat. Some will get grants from the local authority, for furloughed employees etc., but others won’t.
“So, financial assistance specifically for the coach industry is required, as it plays a huge part in Scotland’s economy and in the community. We all want to get back on track as soon as this is over, but they [the Government] could find that Scotland’s tourism won’t recover, as coach companies won’t physically be there to move tourists and incoming groups around the country when the tourists start to return, so they need to look at the bigger picture.”