Area tourism industry hard hit by coronavirus, shutdown

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This week, business for Carol Buczek - owner of Hinckley-based tour company Tours by Design - has been a bit out of the norm due to the economic impact of coronavirus pandemic.

After 17 years of planning trips for civic, church, school and other groups to enjoy, she notes that this time of year is typically busy for companies in the motor coach industry.

Winter is a down time, but spring picks up as package deal excursions are booked for the warmer months into the late fall, she said.

But now, “we’ve canceled every trip through May” as coronavirus has effectively shut down all but essential business, she says. 

And trips slated for farther out in the calendar are either being rescheduled or refunded for many customers who decided they did not want to even chance a trip with other people once social distancing restrictions are lifted.

So now, motor coaches are sitting idle.

Buczek says her business (which does not operate a vehicle fleet) partners with local transportation companies such as Clinton’s Hale Transportation or Birnie Bus to provide excursion service.

“I can’t offer tours if I don’t have a coach to put them on,” she said. But even if there was a coach running, it obviously couldn’t be populated because of health guidelines.

She also notes that the situation is not unique to New York, as the industry is scrambling for a solution to remain solvent while waiting for the virus impact to wane enough for normalcy to be a possibility.

What’s more, Buczek said there are 3,000 motor coach companies across the United States that could be devastated if federal stimulus money is not made available in any upcoming legislation.

“Some of them won’t reopen,” she said, adding that the hits would be hard in the multi-billion dollar industry.

Cam Morris, a manager at Hale Transportation’s Oneonta location agrees. Since March 12, the company has had no business. 

To save money, 24 of the 28 motor coaches from the company’s two locations have been uninsured and are not being driven. Typically, their spring business includes wedding work, high school class trips, college level athletic trips, group camping trips and more.

None of those activities are happening right now. Also, about 50 drivers are now not working, Morris said.

“We have about a $2.8 million loss at this point,” she said on Friday.

Morris said the motor coach industry has been reaching out to elected officials for help as small business economic injury loans and payroll protections recently offered are now becoming a scarcity.

“Motor coaches are the only form of transportation not helped in the stimulus” recently passed, she said. She hopes that changes, as the industry is vital.

Morris said that even though the motor coach industry is typically leisure focused, in times of crisis when evacuations are needed or even when quarantined individuals have had to be transported, “it is motor coaches that are performing the work,” she said.

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