The inter-city B.C. bus companies that carried on and expanded after Greyhound pulled out of Western Canada say they aren’t likely to make it through the COVID-19 pandemic without help from the B.C. and federal government.
“The motor coach industry across B.C. is down a minimum 95 per cent in gross revenue since March 1, 2020 and doesn’t expect a return to anything more than 50 per cent revenues in 2021,” said John Wilson, president of Victoria-based Wilson’s Transportation Oct. 29.
Wilson’s is part of a newly formed B.C. Motor Coach Coalition, along with its subsidiary Tofino Bus, Bluestar Coachlines of Kelowna, Charter Bus Lines and Quick Coachlines based in Delta, Nanaimo-based Vancouver Island Coach Lines, Northern Spirit Transportation out of Prince George, International Stage Lines of Richmond, Kamloops-based Canada West Coachlines, CVS Tours of Victoria and Perimeter Transportation serving Vancouver, Whistler and Squamish.
The coalition says the B.C. government’s small and medium business grant program is offering up to $40,000 for tourism-related businesses isn’t enough, and like other companies, some motor coach operators don’t qualify. Ottawa’s assistance hasn’t been enough either, says David Holmes, general manager of Perimeter Transportation.
“Federal government programs such as Canada Emergency Wage Supplement aren’t sufficient or beneficial to an industry that is almost completely shut down due to government restrictions,” Holmes said.
The coalition is seeking additional government grants or deferrable loans. The national group, Motor Coach Canada, estimates that a group travelling by motor coach generates $10,000 to $15,000 per day in spending on the local economy.
“We not only serve the tourism industry, but also youth groups, senior citizens, nonprofits, local sports teams, school groups and people at risk,” said Brad Sidjak, general manager of International Stage Lines.
Wilson’s was among the companies that expanded after Greyhound stopped service in B.C., Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba in the fall of 2018. The B.C. Passenger Transportation Board issued a licence to Wilson’s to operate Vancouver-Kelowna and Vancouver-Kamloops service as Greyhound wound up its B.C. operations, with stops in Langley, Chilliwack and Merritt as well as its B.C. Ferries Connector service to Victoria.