• Quote: ‘We are missing our customers so much and can’t wait to get back on the road with you’ – David’s Coach trips

By Andrew Atkinson Exclusive

Spain coach tour operators are hoping the government will mirror the UK coach operating sector who have urged the government to allow full capacity on coaches when it issues its review of social distancing measures in June.

Speaking exclusively to The Leader the proprietor of David’s Coach trips said: “This dreadful virus has swept the world, costing the lives of so many people and so much grief and distress to many more friends and families of the victims. My heart goes out to everybody affected.

“How I admire the resilience of the general public and the brilliant skills of our scientific community that have now given us hope.

“David’s Coachtrips, like so many companies, have not been able to operate fully for almost a year. Many businesses will never be able to open again.

“That is so harsh on those who worked so hard to build viable businesses. At Coachtrips, our first response was to seek to refund as much as possible as quickly as possible.

“We repaid many thousands of euros in a very short time. Our economic activities have now been suspended, until such times as we can restart.

“Every effort will be made to ensure that none of our customers lose out, but where there are third parties such as theatres, hotels, concerts, etc., this may take longer than we would like.

“Any outstanding credit notes will be honoured, regardless of expiry date.”

Graham Vidler, chief executive of the UK Confederation of Passenger Transport, at a meeting of the transport committee said: “It is important that coaches are able to operate at their full capacity.

“Operators have taken huge steps to make sure that they are operating safely – for both drivers and staff.

“It is really important that the social distancing review does not open up the rest of the economy – and leave coaches behind – in a situation where you can only half-fill your vehicles.

“Nobody can run coaches profitably in those circumstances.”

The airing comes amid the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the coach sector has had since the start of COVID-19 restrictions in 2020.

UK roads minister Baroness Vere of Norbiton said coaches will be treated in the same way as buses. Bus operators have been given funds on the basis that they cannot carry as many passengers as before the pandemic, because of social distancing.

She said instead the coach sector has access to Additional Restrictions Grants, which “can help with the gap”.

Vidler told MPs on the committee that a scheme along the lines of Eat Out to Help Out which supported the hospitality sector in the summer of 2020 would help to stimulate demand, along with VAT relief.

“Fundamentally, what is needed to accompany any financial incentive is clarity and consistency around the roadmap out of lockdown,” he told the MPs.

“Members tell me that every time a minister stands up and says something positive about the prospects of vacationing in the UK this year, their phone starts ringing with customers who want to make bookings.

“Every time a minister stands up and says ‘maybe you won’t be able to go on holiday in the UK this year’, their phone rings with the same customers cancelling those bookings,” he said.

That echoes thousands of people who have booked holidays to Spain over the last year, only to see them cancelled, due to COVID-19.

“A bit of consistency will both build confidence in customers that they can book for the future and help repair the finances of coach operators, who can be certain that come June, July and August.

“The months when the industry typically makes almost all of its profit and they will be able to serve their customers,” he added.

UK Tourism minister Nigel Huddleston told the committee: “For both domestic and international tourism, the coach sector is a hugely important aspect.

“It provides great value. It is an incredibly well-packaged product. It is a safe product for customers. It has been in the past and it will absolutely be in the future.”

He said the coach sector can play its part in the government’s tourism recovery plan: “There is lots of enthusiasm for coach travel. With the environmental agenda and environmental tourism being increasingly important, it will be even stronger,” he said.

“We are confident that we will have strong domestic tourism this summer.”

Domestic and international marketing campaigns are run by VisitBritain and VisitEngland: “We will be conducting an assessment of the marketing and promotional activities, working very closely with VisitBritain and the DMOs, which play an important role across the country in marketing and promotion

“Let’s make sure that coaches are included in that,” he added.

Spain coach companies have been hit hard along with other sectors of businesses following the coronavirus pandemic outbreak in March 2020.

Thousands of people have booked daily and weekly trips to destinations throughout the country for decades, from Benidorm to Granada.

David, from David’s Coach trips added: “We are missing our customers so much and can’t wait to get back on the road with you.

“Frustratingly the timing is still uncertain. But, bit-by-bit, we will get back to the happy days when we can once again travel in our adopted country, without fear. In the meantime stay safe and well.”