The breaking news late last Friday that the Specialist Leisure Group has gone into administration is perhaps one of the grimmest for the domestic tourism industry thus far: https://www.specialistleisuregroup.com/ .
The 9 brands including National Holidays, Wallace Arnold and Shearings has taken out the biggest public owner and operator of coaches and coach holidays in the UK, along with c 40 major hotels operated in over 30 major UK destinations. This of course follows on from the less high profile but nonetheless damaging loss of David Urquhart Travel, the UK largest privately owned operator of coaches and coach holidays; https://www.davidurquhart.com/ . In the background over the last 10 weeks, numerous local and regional coach owner and operators, many offering both day and staying holidays, have also go into administration. More are likely to follow.
The coach market has often been characterised and, in part, dismissed as a generally high-volume low value trade. The reality for many hotels and destination is that the staying coach trade is vital, if for nothing else, as a filler especially for the shoulder and off-season months. The day trip market, both local and day trip within a staying or touring holiday, supports a wide range of attractions and businesses, both in and out of main season.
There has been a growing concern that the predominantly older coach market customer may be more warry than most of returning quickly post convid-19 lockdown to their former patterns. Although clearly linked this demand side concern may now be outweighed by a far more worrying supply side issue. Even if and when there is a return to normal demand for coach holidays and/or day trips the vehicles and operators to provide them, may be few and far between. For those many destinations that previously attracted coach holidays and coach trips this is further complicating factor in the recovery for their hotels, attractions and other businesses.
I am contacting colleagues in the CPT (Confederation of Passenger Transport) and CTA (Coach Tourism Association) in the hope of obtaining a more accurate assessment of the cumulative scale of the loss of coach, capacity passengers carried, holidays, bed nights etc. Meanwhile any local intelligence you may have on the coach market or those local businesses reliant upon them, it would be appreciated.
More detail on the welcome announcements made yesterday regarding the reopening of some shops from 1 June and others by mid-June will follow, once the guidance has been analysed and hopefully better understood.
I may be wrong but the safe and orderly reopening of retail is perhaps now the biggest test and barrier to the reopening of tourism, leisure and the wider visitor hopefully starting from 4 July onward. Retail may not be every destination mangers primary focus but on this occasion helping retail get it right and doing it quickly could be a or the critical step on path to the tourism industry’s recovery?
We are working on a destination wide reassurance package for all visitor economy businesses, with QiT. Hopefully we may be able to make announcements shortly.