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

Police in Nanaimo hope to find the owner of a Giant Reign mountain bike that was seized after a man was spotted riding it without a helmet on the wrong side of the road on Christmas Eve. (Photo submitted)
Nanaimo RCMP suspicious to find expensive bike covered in layer of duct tape

Police looking for owner of Giant Reign mountain bike that they believe was stolen

A still from surveillance footage showing a confrontation in the entranceway at Dolly’s Gym on Nicol Street on Friday morning. (Image submitted)
Troublemaker causes pain and damage at downtown Nanaimo gym

VIDEO: Suspect breaks fire alarm, slams door on business owner’s foot after attempting to defraud her

Scott Saywell, Nanaimo Ladysmith Public Schools’ superintendent and CEO, has seen his contract renewed for four years, the district announced Wednesday. (SD68 YouTube screenshot)
Nanaimo school district renews superintendent’s contract for four years

‘Singing superintendent’ Scott Saywell under contract through 2024-25 school year

Cyclists pick up swag and cycling trail maps at city Bike to Work Week ‘celebration station’ a few years ago. (News Bulletin file photo)
City of Nanaimo’s active transportation plan will be about more than infrastructure

City working on goals to double walking trips and quintuple cycling and busing trips

Nanaimo RCMP seek public assistance after numerous tire slashings between Jan. 12-14. (News Bulletin file)
20 tires punctured in ‘slashing spree’ in Nanaimo

Nanaimo RCMP ask for any tips about Jan. 12-14 incidents in Country Club and Boxwood areas

Health Minister Adrian Dix and provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry head for the press theatre at the B.C. legislature for an update on COVID-19, Jan. 7, 2021. (B.C. government)
B.C.’s COVID-19 spread steady with 509 new cases Friday

Hospitalized and critical care cases decline, nine deaths

Seasonal influenza vaccine is administered starting each fall in B.C. and around the world. (Langley Advance Times)
After 30,000 tests, influenza virually nowhere to be found in B.C.

COVID-19 precautions have eliminated seasonal infection

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 say country will still likely receive four million doses by the end of March

Jobs Minister Ravi Kahlon shared a handwritten note his son received on Jan. 13, 2021. (Ravi Kahlon/Twitter)
Proud dad moment: B.C. minister’s son, 10, receives handwritten note for act of kindness

North Delta MLA took to Twitter to share a letter his son received from a new kid at school

Lilly and Poppy, two cats owned by Kalmar Cat Hotel ownder Donna Goodenough, both have cerebellAr hypoplasia, a genetic neurological condition that affects their ability to control their muscles and bones. Photo by Alistair Taylor – Campbell River Mirror
VIDEO: Wobbly Cats a riot of flailing legs and paws but bundles of love and joy to their owner

Woman urges others to not fear adopting cats with disabilities

Dr. Shannon Waters, the medical health officer for the Cowichan Valley Region, is reminding people to stay the course with COVID-19 measures. (File photo)
‘Stay the course’ with COVID measures, Island Health reminds

Limit social activity, wash hands, wear a mask, and isolate if you feel sick

Cowichan Tribes members line up at a drive-up clinic on Wednesday, Jan. 13 to receive the first doses of the COVID-19 vaccine in the region. (Kevin Rothbauer/Citizen)
BCAFN condems racism against Cowichan Tribes after COVID-19 outbreak

“Any one of us could do everything right and still catch the virus”: Regional Chief Terry Teegee.

Chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam provides an update on the COVID-19 pandemic in Ottawa on Friday, Jan. 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Canada’s top doctor says to avoid non-essential travel as B.C. explores legal options

Premier John Horgan says he is seeking legal advice on whether it can limit interprovincial travel

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good
Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Most Read