September 15 2020

This week’s blog is brought to you by Kurt Janson, Director at the Tourism Alliance. Kurt writes about the vital role of coaches in the tourism chain, and the need for Government to recognise and understand their importance.

The Tourism Alliance is an umbrella trade association for the UK tourism industry. The aim of the Alliance is to bring together the many diverse tourism-related Trade Associations, Membership Bodies and Destination Management organisations to agree policies and priorities for ensuring the growth and development sector and present these to government in a clear and coherent manner.

One thing that I’ve learnt in discussing tourism with MPs and officials over the years is that while they recognise the different sectors that tourism comprises – aviation, accommodation, attractions, activities, entertainment, and hospitality – they often treat these sectors as if they operated in silos.

There tends to be little understanding that travel, be it for holiday or business, is comprised of interconnected purchases with coach operators linking all these components together to form a chain. If you take one component out of this chain, then the UK tourism industry ceases to function properly.

This has been a constant message to Government throughout the Coronavirus outbreak – each link in the tourism chain needs support and Coronavirus rules need to be consistent across business sectors if we are going to help as many tourism-related businesses as possible survive until next year. In terms of financial support, there is a real failure by Government to recognise and understand that coach operators are a vital component of the tourism chain. The decision to not provide Business Rates Relief and Grant Funding to operators on the basis that a coach picks up people rather than people go to a depot to pick up a coach defies belief and work will continue on this.

In terms of Coronavirus rules the situation is better but the new Rule of Six has caused considerable uncertainty among coach operators, attractions, Councils and the Government needs to clarify to everyone that Tour Groups are still able to operate.

It is our view that coaches can still operate to their Covid-secure capacity provided that each individual party on a coach complies with the Rule of Six, that attractions can accept coach groups, again provided that the individual parties maintain social distancing when they get off the coach, and that guides are able to take groups of up to 30 people from a coach on a walk around any destination or attraction (again provided that the individual parties being guided maintain their social distancing). The ability to do each of these things is already in various different pieces of Government guidance – what is missing is Government pulling this together and supporting the sector by clarifying to everyone that coach tourism is open for business.

Tourism Alliance is the voice of the tourism industry. You can follow them on Twitter to keep up to date with the latest news: @TourismsVoice