Due to the COVID-19 crisis, regular coach lines and coach tourism trips have been cancelled since March and the coach travel and tourism industry is facing a complete shutdown.
When operators are expected to provide refunds for cancelled services, this increases the risk of bankruptcy for the travel and tourism sector, already severely hit and with no perspective or business pick up anytime soon. The solvency issue faced by coach operators is putting at risk not only commercial passenger transport but the whole travel and tourism industry worldwide, which employs more than 320 million, or one in ten employed, people globally1.
In the case of Europe, in order to ensure the sector’s survival, IRU together with the Network for the European Private Sector in Tourism (NET), called on European decision makers to allow travel agents and transport companies to provide customers with vouchers that could be used flexibly within a certain period of time. Such vouchers should be backed by state guarantees and in the case they are unused within the validity period, passengers would be able to claim a refund.
A coordinated action of this measure will help ensure the short term financial stability and operations of private coach operators. In addition to protecting consumers, this measure will also prevent transport operators, which are primarily small and medium enterprises, from going bankrupt.
For IRU and its members, strong legal protections for consumers are important. But in these exceptional times, IRU calls on authorities across the globe to show understanding and flexibility. Travel and tourism are anticipated to be the slowest to recover as COVID-19 containment measures at national level are gradually lifted. Consequently, they need exceptional measures in place to survive and to be in a position to provide services as the economy recovers.
1 Source : World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC), 2019