John Wilson, president and CEO of the Wilson’s Group of Companies, is lobbying for more direct financial aid from government for B.C.’s devastated private motor coach industry. (Black Press Media file photo)

John Wilson, president and CEO of the Wilson’s Group of Companies, is lobbying for more direct financial aid from government for B.C.’s devastated private motor coach industry. (Black Press Media file photo)

B.C. motor coach industry at the breaking point, says Victoria operator

John Wilson wants province to know bus companies are critical to B.C.’s tourism economy

The head of the largest ground transportation company on Vancouver Island is looking for government help for a private motor coach industry devastated by travel restrictions due to COVID-19.

John Wilson, president, CEO and owner of Saanich-based Wilson’s Group of Companies, says despite his industry and company playing a critical role in keeping tourism rolling here and elsewhere in B.C. and Canada, they’ve received little in direct government aid outside of the federal wage subsidy program.

Getting help paying wages “is great if you’re operating,” he said, noting that minimal passenger counts and advisories against travelling have forced companies like his to cancel many inter-city services. Smaller operators that have endured almost 10 months with revenues less than 10 per cent of usual need fast help with cash liquidity or they may not be around much longer.

RELATED STORY: B.C. bus companies say they need help to survive COVID-19

“I think everyone’s probably done as we have done; we’re down to a skeleton crew here, we’ve looked into any grant or subsidy that we could, we’ve taken vehicles off the road … but our overheads are based on normal revenues,” he says.

Having limped through what is normally their busiest season, May through September, the company saw a potential bright spot – ski season.

“With our Mount Washington ski bus service we were looking forward to a banner year, with skiing one of those outdoor activities that people can do,” Wilson says. “We were only able to run for two weeks before the new restrictions shut us down.”

He fears the long-term impact to local tourism as his company is forced to reduce its coach capacity.

“The larger entities in tourism are real leaders to recovery,” he said, referencing such companies as Harbour Air, Butchart Gardens, Wilson’s, the cruise companies and others as underpinning the visitor economy.

“If any of the key pillars falter … the recovery period for the tourism industry in Greater Victoria will be much longer due to the reduced ability to handle events and the number of visitors.”

Wilson’s does not qualify for some government programs based on its size. B.C.’s small and medium-sized business recovery grant, for example, offers up to $45,000 for tourism-related businesses heavily impacted by the pandemic, but for those with 149 employees or less.

Even with the COVID-19 vaccine being rolled out, operators are looking at no better than a 50 per cent year for revenues in 2021, Wilson said. Realistically, any return to normalcy isn’t expected until 2023.

RELATED: Bus companies at risk as revenue drops 95 per cent, no help in sight

One might look at Wilson’s as having enough hard assets – a large bus fleet – to create the liquidity that could allow the company to survive until travel restrictions are loosened. But given the market for this equipment across North America right now is “pennies on the dollar,” their primary assets are at their lowest point in value.

A statement from the B.C. Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure acknowledged that private motor coach companies are struggling, and indicated that the province “will continue to work with the industry to help ensure companies can get through the pandemic.”

Wilson, a member of the B.C. Motor Coach Coalition, said the group plans to reach out soon to Tourism Minister Melanie Mark to further communicate the importance of its industry to tourism.

According to Destination British Columbia, in 2018 tourism contributed more to B.C.’s gross domestic product ($8.3 billion) than any other primary resource industry. A total of 161,500 people were employed in tourism-related businesses and earned $6.1 billion in wages and salaries.


 

Do you have a story tip? Email:don.descoteau@blackpress.ca. Follow us on Instagram.  
Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Transportation

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Forestry companies in B.C. agree to abide by the cedar protocols based on traditional laws of the First Nation members of the Nanwakolas Council. (Photo courtesy, Nanwakolas Council)
B.C. forestry companies agree to abide by cedar protocols drafted by Indigenous council

Western Forest Products and Interfor Corporation among companies to adapt declaration drafted by Nanwakolas Council

Shawn Decaire does a blessing ceremony for the Hama?Elas Community Kitchen in Campbell River. Photo by Marc Kitteringham, Campbell River Mirror
Hama?Elas Community Kitchen progress shared

Strategic planning, progress made on various projects also discussed at CRDCEH meeting

Campbell River city council has given unanimous support to its mayor to continue the fight for the aquaculture industry on our coast. Black Press file photo
Campbell River city council unanimous in support of fish farms

‘I’m certainly not willing to roll over and accept a bad decision,’ says one councilor

(Black Press file photo)
One dead after single-vehicle accident in Campbell River yesterday

‘…we are hoping for a full recovery for both passengers,’ says RCMP

A woman wears a face mask and shield to curb the spread of COVID-19 while walking in North Vancouver, B.C., on Wednesday, January 6, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
536 COVID cases, 7 deaths reported as B.C. finds its first case of South African variant

Henry said 69,746 people have received their first dose of the COVID vaccine.

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

A northern resident killer whale shows injuries sustained by a collision with a vessel in B.C. waters. (Photo supplied by Ocean Wise Conservation Association)
Coast Guard ramps up protections for B.C. whales

First-ever Marine Mammal Desk will enhance cetacean reporting and enforcement

Two toucans sit on tree at an unidentified zoo. (Pixabay.com)
BC SPCA calls for ban on exotic animal trade after 50 parrots, toucans pass through YVR

One toucan was found dead and several others were without food

Smaller egg farmers find themselves in a David and Goliath situation when it comes to major producers and chain-grocery store shelf space. (Citizen file)
Vancouver Island egg producer cries foul over ‘Island’ label

Egg farmer frustrated with regulations allowing mainland-laid eggs to be labelled ‘Island’

Police and fire crews at work at a fire scene at Mount Prevost School (Kevin Rothbauer/Citizen)
Classes cancelled by fire at a Duncan-area school for the second time this week

Fire this morning at Duncan area middle school follows Monday blaze at nearby elementary

Nanaimo RCMP seek public assistance after numerous tire slashings between Jan. 12-14. (News Bulletin file)
Police seek public’s help after ‘tire slashing spree’ in central Nanaimo

Ten reports of slashed tires in the last three days, say Nanaimo RCMP

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau listens to a question during a news conference outside Rideau cottage in Ottawa, Friday, January 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Trudeau says Canada’s COVID vaccine plan on track despite Pfizer cutting back deliveries

Canadian officials says it will still likely receive four million doses by the end of March

Most Read