Bus tour operators plead for help

The travel and tourism coach transport industry has been brought to its knees by the five-month Covid-19 lockdown. 

The industry has a fleet of about 1 000 vehicles designed to meet standard- to mid- and upper-end luxury travel requirements. It makes an estimated R5-billion a year and employs about 5 000 people. 

The industry is begging the government for assistance of R9.3-million a month until next year May, when business is expected to have improved. 

The Private Charter Passenger Association (PCPA) has more than 65 members, which are operating at least 1 200 vehicles. It says its members have “not worked a day” since the lockdown started. 

The chairperson of the association, Fiona Brooke-Leggatt, said her members were “all in various stages of the process of retrenchment, as all these private operators have been covering their fixed costs per month on their own with not one cents assistance from the government”. 

She said the operators have lost the six months of fees they paid for licences. Many vehicles have been repossessed and fuel companies are trying to shut some of the members down after they were unable to pay March’s fuel bills.

Bazil Govender, executive manager of the Southern African Bus Operators Association (Saboa), said they estimated the industry lost about R200-million during lockdown periods four and five. From lockdown three onwards another R100-million will be lost every month.

Govender said the industry was the backbone of road-based travel for the tourism industry. Prior to Covid-19, the industry was under financial pressure as a result of increasing costs and currency fluctuations and the market had been negatively affected by the declining economy. 

The industry is asking the government for assistance. In May, presentations were made to the department of transport and memorandums were sent to the departments of transport and of tourism. 

Saboa requested financial assistance of R9.3-million a month for personal protective equipment and sanitising and disinfecting supplies. It also asked for an extension of payments by the Unemployment Insurance Fund’s Temporary Employer-Employee Relief Scheme until May 2021, because the industry is not expected to bounce back until next year.

The PCPA also wants an immediate refund of their members’ licence fees, which they had paid in advance. The licence for luxury coaches can cost up to R52 000 a vehicle.

Brooke-Leggatt said they want “the government to stop only listening and assisting the taxi industry [which was not] shut down for one day in the lockdown and was running at full occupancy, compared to ourselves, who were only given a 50% occupancy allowance. We have not received a cent, however the taxi industry was given R1.2-billion.”

The industry can now operate inter-provincially, as is allowed under level two of the regulations. 

Govender said a better sense of business operations will become apparent at the end of September and with the confirmation of bookings for the spring and summer seasons.

The department of tourism’s Blessing Manale referred the Mail & Guardian’s questions to the department of transport, which had not responded at the time of publication. 

Manale said the department of tourism has supported tour operators with a maximum of R50 000 through the Covid-19 relief fund.

Tshegofatso Mathe is an Adamela Trust business reporter at the M&G

Make sense of your world

Subscribe to Mail & Guardian at R10/mth for the first three months. Cancel anytime.

Subscribers get access to all our best journalism, subscriber-only newsletters, events and a weekly cryptic crossword.

Tshegofatso Mathe
Tshegofatso Mathe
Tshegofatso Mathe is a financial trainee journalist at the Mail & Guardian.

Related stories

WELCOME TO YOUR M&G

Already a subscriber? Sign in here

Advertising

Latest stories

Bad data: No, VW Polo drivers aren’t the worst in...

The headlines vilifying one group of drivers miss the point about an important road safety report.

A BIG deal: Universal income support could resuscitate South Africa’s...

A basic income grant could add 0.5% to GDP growth by 2025, according to a report commissioned by the National Economic Development and Labour Council.

Public protector to investigate president

ANC MP Mervyn Dirks has asked Busisiwe Mkhwebane to investigate Ramaphosa’s ‘failure to report corruption’

NPA fails to deal with R7.8bn in Covid-19 corruption

Not ‘trial ready’: 386 Special Investigating Unit referrals lead to just one case in court so far
Advertising

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…
×