There has perhaps been no worse business to be in during the coronavirus pandemic as the tour bus business.
With no foreign tour groups arriving in Thailand since last March and Thai tours dramatically curtailed, bus operators have lost nearly all of their income, first idling and then selling off their rolling stock.
Wasuchet Sophonsatien, president of the Thai Transportation Operators Association, called the industry dead. He said 30 percent of operators have gone bankrupt and a quarter of the 40,000 coaches owned by members sold off. He predicted another 10,000 buses will be sold by year-end.
He said 20 percent of the group’s members owned more than 100 buses, 40 percent had 20-100 coaches while 40 percent were small operators with fewer than 20. Only the large companies will survive, Wasuchet forecast.
The association president explained that tour buses simply can’t be parked and left until needed. A coach that has been idle for a long time needs maintenance to restart, the cost for which can reach 200,000 baht.
Many owners, he said, have decided simply not to repair their dormant coaches. Those who did invest in new batteries, tires and the like during the fall, when domestic tourism rebounded, were burned badly by the second-wave shutdown, Wasuchet said.
The Thai Transportation Operators Association appealed for relief from the Transport, Labor and Finance ministries, which were able to help some operators, but not all. Some earned exemptions on registration renewals, business licenses, inspections and fines.
Wasuchet said the group now will appeal for unemployment compensation for employees and bailout money for companies, such as direct payments of 5,000 baht per bus per month for three months.
The association also requested the Finance Ministry grant an extension on loan repayments.