Coach Holidays and Covid19 – Impacts & Issues
Airlines have already been promoting what they are going to do to keep their travellers safe, introducing everything from compulsory face masks, to extra cleaning as well as removing onboard bistro services, cash payments and much more.
Airports have also been introducing measures such as temperature checks, more use of online and ticketless travel and revised queuing systems for security etc.
Coach holidays, given their very nature, are being more heavily impacted by Covid19.
Several high profile companies have already disappeared from the market.
Given it looks likely that there will need to be some sort of restrictions to try and prevent person to person spread of Coronavirus for some time it looks like there will need to be longer term use of measures such as social distancing, face masks and extra hygiene precautions.
The longer term use of social distancing in particular is going to cause problems for coach holidays.
Coach Holidays and Illness Policies
Coaches are great places for the spread of germs. Myself and many of the coach drivers I have worked with have caught coughs and colds that have spread through the coach after one person has had it.
For a long time this has been a real grey area in regards to coach holiday travel. Guests who have booked a coach holiday don’t want to miss out on it just because they have a bit of a cold or a cough so they often load up on remedies and carry on. The cold or cough starts spreading through the coach and before you know it lots of people have been affected.
Coach holiday companies have not had any sort of robust policy regarding these sorts of situations in the past and as a Tour Manager I can tell you it causes all sorts of problems.
Firstly there is resentment of the passenger themselves from other travellers who think the person affected should stay off the coach until they are better. Then they often blame the Tour Manager for not making the passenger stay off the coach, even though there is no actual way we can do this given the lack of company policy in this area. This resentment often finds it way through to customer surveys as a result.
It is not just the other guests that can be affected. I have worked with lots of drivers who have suffered horrible colds as a result of guests in the front seats being affected or it spreading around the coach. Having to drive a coach full of people when you feel so rotten is pretty horrible.
The other issue is that it can be much more serious. A guest on one of my tours had what she told me was a cough. I am not a doctor, and again there was no company policy regarding getting her to stay off the coach. It turned out she had pneumonia as she eventually ended up in bed for several days and a fellow traveller went home with double pneumonia as a result.
Coaches often have a circulating air system without the HEPA filters that airplanes and hospitals use, meaning germs can circulate more easily than in other environments.
Rubbish bags on coaches mean that dirty tissues can be left on the coach for some time, or as we often find them, left on the floor.
If you are considering booking a coach holiday while we are still having to deal with Covid19 then ask about the illness policy in relation to Covid19.
Coach Holidays and Covid19 – Other Impacts
Here are some other aspects of coach holidays that are likely to be impacted by Covid19 requirements/restrictions;
Transfers – some companies offer transfers to the starting point. These may have to be adjusted to reduce the number of guests.
Luggage – porterage can be included in some coach holidays. However, some hotels are removing their porter service to reduce the risk of transmission. If guests are going to have to carry their own luggage this will affect holiday timings and of course arrival and departure arrangements.
Coach seating – as mentioned above there are lots of implications for coach seating but there are also other things to consider including seat rotation and reserved front seat policies. Some coach holiday companies are already introducing fixed seating policies.
Onboard toilets – some companies are restricting the use of the onboard toilet. Of course they will be adding in more comfort stops along the way. This may have some impacts on timings for the tour also.
Excursions – these may have to be adjusted to take account of things like social distancing. This could affect things like train rides, group visits to museums, boat trips etc. Again this will affect timings.
Group meals – will people have to sit at different tables to maintain distancing? Given lots of coach holiday meals include buffets what precautions will be taken to reduce the risk of transmission or will meals have to change to a plated meal? If that is the case there will need to be agreed menus with potential cost implications also.
Hotel use – will guests be able to use hotel facilities or will this be restricted? What type of service can they expect in hotels i.e. bars, restaurants etc?
Tour Managers – how will Tour Managers be able to deal with a coach holiday group if they are required to maintain social distancing? Will there be restrictions on things like visiting guests rooms (often required in the event of illness).
Holiday costs – if tours run with less people than the capacity who will bear the increased cost – the travellers, the coach holiday company or the suppliers?
Coach holiday companies are already introducing different approaches.
Trafalgar have introduced additional ‘wellbeing directors’ to help people manage the Covid19 requirements and restrictions when travelling.
In general there is also a move to smaller group sizes with plenty of room on board coaches rather than full coaches.
Whatever coach holiday companies decide to do to try and reassure passengers that it is safe to travel I hope one thing that comes out of this is a much more robust and clear policy regarding guests travelling when they are ill.
Having clarity about when we can ask guests to stay off the coach will be helpful not just in dealing with suspected Coronavirus cases but with things like coughs and colds too.
This current grey area needs to be made much more black and white, for the sake of travellers, Tour Managers, drivers and those all important holiday surveys.
If you are thinking of booking a coach holiday then check out my 10 Things You Need to Know About Coach Holidays.