Weeks into the Coronavirus pandemic and the group tour and travel industry is being decimated. Spring is known to be our busy season. This is the time when we would be welcoming motorcoaches and tours filled with school classrooms, families and other Americans who love to see all the amazing sites America has to offer, but there is no one traveling. The hundreds of thousands of students visiting capital cities and educational and destination sites are home. Spring break family trips are not happening. At a time when 50 to 90 percent of this motorcoach, group tour and travel industry’s profits are made, everyone has had to close their doors. This story sounds so far away but it is happening right in our community.
Our company, Atchison Transportation Services, Inc, one of the oldest and largest transportation companies in South Carolina employs sixty-one people in our community. We have been forced to dramatically reduce our workforce, park our motorcoaches, most of our other vehicles and watch our Airport and VIP services almost disappear. The roads are silent where usually there would be hundreds of motorcoaches on the road, taking schools on field trips, forcing businesses and other groups to cancel their transportation plans. No more visitors in our museums, attractions and stores. No airport travel, no tourism dollars coming in at all, and we will never make this loss up.
Charles E Atchison, Sr, the ninety-year-old owner since its inception in 1949, said, “I have never seen anything like this in my life. All I have worked for and nurtured over these many years are in jeopardy.”
“I feel so very bad for our employees, who face troubling times, not only with the disease, but with financial questions in their immediate future” explained Charlita Atchison Moss, Charles’ granddaughter and Operations Manager at the company.“ “We are doing all we can to keep our few remaining employees, office and very importantly our customers safe by implementing extensive cleaning and sanitizing procedures for our vehicles.”
While we appreciate the efforts that Congress made to include small businesses in the Small Business Administration loan program and the unemployment benefits provisions to assist during the crisis, we are disappointed at being ignored in Congress’ CARES ACT package because it did not carve out specific money for the travel and tourism segment of the U.S. economy. The Small Business Emergency Loan program will take some time before it is up and running. And, while there are SBA loans available, our businesses, which are mostly shut down, will need to stand in line with every small business hurting in the country. Most of the companies in the industry are like mine, a small business, and many are family owned businesses, which have been a staple in the community for decades. Atchison has been in business since 1949, and sadly we are facing severe financial distress.
Yet Congress has bailed out transit, Amtrak and the airlines. Why are they ignoring us? Our industry employs 2 million people around the country, bringing in an economic impact of $237 billion annually. We will not see those numbers this year. If U.S. government allows our businesses close permanently, we may never see those numbers again.
We need action now! We need Congress to provide us the funds – like they have for other travel sectors – to save our industry and keep America moving and traveling.
Atchison Transportation Services, Inc
120 Interstate Park, Spartanburg, SC 29303