Chauffeur companies will not survive 2020 unless inbound tourism resumes
Survey of chauffeur companies shows that members have seen income drop of up to 98% and an average of 87% across the board
Western Chauffeur Drive Association Ireland says that two-week social-isolation restrictions for visitors must be lifted and bank moratorium extended to enable survival.
Friday, 05 June 2020: The Western Chauffeur Drive Association Ireland (WCDAI) has said that many of its members will not be able to survive through 2020 in business unless government restrictions on inbound tourists are eased soon. The association, which represents members from 13 counties from the west coast to Dublin, says the requirement for people coming into the country to self-isolate for 14 days is crippling tourism generally and almost entirely wiping out their business, which predominantly relies on foreign travellers.
The WCDAI association surveyed its 37 members, who employ 300 people, and found that earnings for March and April this year dropped by as much as 98% for some operators, when compared to the same period last year. Generally, there was an average earnings reduction of 87% for March and April. The WCDAI partnered with the National Chauffeur Drive Association on the survey. The survey also found that some members believe it could be as far as 2022 before they return to even 50% of the business levels from 2019. And companies have been forced to lay off up to 300 people for the season, which is typically busiest from April to October. In addition to the lifting of the self-isolation restriction for inbound tourists, the group is also calling for the moratorium on bank loans to October to be extended into next year, otherwise many will become insolvent in Q4. And it is also calling for a VRT reduction for fleet renewal for 2021. The Western Chauffeur Drive Association is a network of chauffeur driver companies who operate year-round but with business predominantly seasonal, from April to October. Its clientele ranges from A-list celebrities to golf-tours and foreign dignitaries. The sector in general contributes €200m to the Irish economy each year. “Tourism has been hugely impacted by COVID-19 but there is, at least, going to be a lift from domestic tourism once restrictions begin to allow greater travel within the country. Unfortunately, our members would not benefit from staycation campaigns and will only bounce back when aviation resumes and international restrictions are lifted,” said WCDAI secretary Fergal Jordan, who operates Troy Chauffeurs in Limerick. “We are hugely reliant on inbound tourism. We have corporate business as well, but that has also been wiped out. If tourism got going to some level this summer, many of our members might just be able to hold on.” Mr Jordan said it’s unlikely that any visitors to Ireland would be unaware of the risks around COVID-19 and the need for social distancing, but that a major awareness programme from the moment they land – including from WDCAI members and their employees – can help ensure social distancing is achieved.
“People want to travel to our country and by and large it is to enjoy the great outdoors; the scenery, golf, etc. This can be managed, not least with us all playing a part with awareness programmes and we are certainly committed to that, as will every other player in the hospitality sector. “The chances of people who want to come here being unaware of the risks in the first instance are very remote but the second they step off an aircraft or enter through a port, they are going to be reminded of them. “From the perspective of our clientele, we are the first people they meet and the people they spend most of the time with other than their immediate party. We will be running our own programmes with them to make sure they are aware of what’s required in the unlikely event that they don’t already know.”
He added: “If we don’t get going soon, it will be too late for many. Our members have well over €100m worth of fleet lying idle, most of our members haven’t worked since the middle of March and hundreds of employees have not worked either. The clock is ticking for everyone as what we have now is not sustainable.”
© 2019 Western Chauffeur Drive Association Ireland