Coach Tourism & Transport Council of Ireland
Pre Budget Submission 2011
Overseas coach passengers has declined over the past 3 seasons as follows :
These are very disturbing figures and reveal the very difficult environment that our members are trading in. The current season has not seen any improvement with initial reports indicating a further deterioration.
The government has seen fit to introduce Carbon Taxes in Budget 2009 and this accompanied by the withdrawl of the Fuel Excise Rebate scheme in 2008 has resulted in very significant but avoidable cost increases for our members who are involved in escorted and local sightseeing coach tourism. These additional burdens have been further accentuated with additional market driven fuel price increases. The net result is that coach touring has become a very marginal business for all operators and a loss making activity for most.
We are calling on Government not to further increase Carbon Taxes in the forthcoming Budget and to strongly consider a carbon tax rebate scheme for Coach touring activities to maintain any surviving viability in our Industry.
There are over 600 licences issued to private bus operators throughout the state. These licensed services cover inter-urban, rural, in-town and occasional event routes. These socially desirable activities are provided subvention free. The sector has been badly affected by the economic downturn, encroachment by the Rural Transport Scheme, which is Government funded, and the inordinate increase in fuel costs experienced in the past two years arising through the introduction of Carbox Tax, the withdrawl of Fuel Excise Rebate scheme and market driven fuel price increases. The result has led to service withdrawl and marginal trading at best with many services now loss making.
We are requesting of Government to introduce a Carbon Tax rebate scheme for this sector to assist with survival and stimulate investment.
We are also calling on Government to review urgently the Rural Transport Scheme to ensure that encroachment with established license routes is ended and a full value-for-money audit is conducted into the Scheme’s disbursement of public funds.
Private operators provide 80% of vehicles that are used in the School Transport system. They underpin the whole scheme which has been exclusively contracted out to Bus Eiraenn since it’s introduction. Whenever savings have been called for it is the private operator sub-contractors who have borne the brunt of cost reductions. The method of forcing rate reductions upon unfortunate operators has been nothing short of shameful with a policy of divide-and-conquer being used to frighten operators to accept uneconomic conditions
In marked contrast no attempt has been made to achieve savings elsewhere in the Scheme’s budget and we would like to highlight the inordinate cost of it’s administration at a figure in 2008 of €27,000,000. It is our belief that the School Transport Scheme is being used to cross-subsidise Expressway Services with which activity it is joined and accounted for in the Bus Eireann financial statements. These statements assert that School Transport is charged to the Department of Education on a cost recovery only basis and we would strongly question the accuracy of this financial note.
We recommend that the whole School Transport scheme be put out to tender to comply with EU procurement Directive 1007 and the reduction of unnecessary administration costs.
In any event we are calling on Government to protect ordinary family owned coach & bus operators from the predatory activities of Bus Eireann in achieving cost reductions through the very questionable practices it uses in extracting rate reductions from these vulnerable but vital transport providers.
During the past two years investment in new rolling stock has dropped off dramatically. This is the result of the economic environment, marginal or unviable trading conditions, government fuel carbon tax introduction combined with withdrawl of fuel excise rebate scheme, market increase in fuel costs and the alarming decline in coach tourism numbers. We have experienced accelerated vehicle depreciation rates with the market for second-hand touring coaches having ground to a halt.
We call on Government to recognise the reality of the serious decline in coach values and introduce a 40% once-off capital allowance concession for existing and new fleet for the next financial year. This will merely re-establish the alignment between tax written down and market values in the case of existing fleet and be a driver for investment in new coaches for enterprises that would otherwise not invest given the tourism statistics referred to above. This measure is necessary in the interests of fairness and to keep the coach touring fleet as young as possible in anticipation of a recovery in the medium term.
The infamous €10 visitor tax has been proven to be a serious disincentive in attracting overseas leisure tourists ,in particular, to Ireland. It sends out a very negative message aside from the unnecessary cost to potential tourists. It should be scrapped in the forthcoming Budget to help re-establish Ireland’s reputation as one of the most welcoming Country in the world. Our competitor countries do not have such a cost imposition on visitors and we really need to address this issue as soon as possible.
We therefore recommend the withdrawl of the €10 levy on foreign visitors or te introduction of an easily administered refund scheme.
We need to maintain a very high profile in all our tourist markets with particular emphasis on the U.K., U.S., European and long haul countries. Marketing budgets need to be maintained at overall current levels with a critical review of return for spend to be conducted as early as possible.
Group and coach tourism needs particular stimulation.The escorted coach tour sector has proven to deliver very high visitor satisfaction and value for money in the past. This has been borne out in visitor satisfaction surveys carried out by Failte Ireland.
The coach tourism sector delivers happy visitors to the regions but does not get the recognition it deserves. Many of the coach enterprises are spread out countrywide and offer valuable employment where there are few other opportunities for meaningful employment.
We recommend that the overall current marketing budget be maintained or increased and the group & coach tourism be separately marketed as a very satisfying and value-for-money activity for incoming tourists.
Ireland is missing out on a huge market for incoming tourists from China, India, Indonesia, Russia, Turkey, South America etc. in it’s very restrictive and expensive VISA regime that pertains towards a major part of the developing world. It is high time that the Government recognises the folly of this situation and joins other European countries in the Schengen visitor VISA system. We are strangling the potential of rapid improvement to inward tourism from many countries through the maintenance of these short-sighted visitor policies which are designed to keep out unwanted immigration into the British Isles. We are a sovereign nation and should pursue policies which are of benefit to ourselves and not to bolster the immigration regime of our near neighbour, Britain.
We recommend that Ireland join the Schengen VISA scheme as soon as possible and in the meantime facilitate the issuance of visitor visas in a timely, customer friendly, least bureaucratic and expensive manner.