GEIRANGER (Aftenposten/E24): Several hundred tour buses have been sold out of the country during the pandemic. Now the tasks are aligned, and the industry lacks both buses and drivers.
A summer day in the tourist village of Geiranger confirms the new standard. Tourists abound on their way in and out of buses.
– We just have to smile and look at it positively, but it’s a slam during the day. Maybe I can get assignments for ten more buses.
This is what General Manager Torbjørn Arntsen says at Geiranger Turbuss.
When Norway closed in March 2020, the company’s sales went from NOK 14 million to NOK 4 million. A good profit in 2019 was followed by a deficit of 1.2 million in 2020.
It was a battle for survival during the entire pandemic. I borrowed money and bought a truck and a tractor to stand on other legs. I did what I could by myself. There was 80,000 kilometers of long-distance transportation down Europe.
Hundreds of buses were sold abroad
Geiranger’s company survived. All 25 to 30 of the largest tour bus companies in Norway have also been spared the pandemic. But it didn’t go well with all the little ones. Many small tour bus players have gone bankrupt.
One of them is Møll Buss in Lindesnes, which had to give up last year after 20 years in operation.
– We went through a rough period just before the lockdown, so when the epidemic came it was over, says General Manager Jörn of Mall.
Although the largest remains: the industry remains weak, overall:
- In 2019, there were 1,920 tourist buses registered in Norway.
- In 2021, the number was reduced to 1,162 buses.
- During the pandemic, 758 Norwegian tour buses disappeared.
Director John H. Stordang at NHO describes the numbers as exciting, both for the industry and Norway’s transport readiness.
However, he confirms that the real decline is less than these figures from Statistics Norway show. It is estimated that about 350 buses were parked and disconnected to save money during the pandemic. They are probably back on the road now.
The rest of the decline is due to the fact that the buses were sold abroad. According to Stordrange, they landed primarily in the Middle East.
Go from “zero to a hundred” in a short time
But even if the buses that are deregistered have the banners back on, it’s not enough to be able to get rid of all the tasks.
– He’s too busy. He went from zero to a hundred in a very short time.
This is what Commercial Director Matthias Hogsgaard says at Tide Buss, Norway’s second largest bus company.
The company has fewer buses this year than in previous summers. Like many other companies, it lacks both drivers and buses. The result is that they have to say no to assignments that have not been contracted.
General Manager Morten Stoevner Sorley at HM Kristiansen Buss in Oslo provided the same situation report: the situation is “exactly the opposite” of what it was last year and the year before.
– Now there is so much to do that it overflows. There aren’t enough buses to get by, he says.
It’s hard to find buses to replace trains
There is also a lack of buses outside the traditional tourism market. A large fleet of tour buses is needed to replace trains in sections that will be closed this summer due to maintenance.
Gina Schultz, Head of Communications at Vy, talks about a challenging situation ahead of this summer.
– It wasn’t easy. We’re not alone in noticing the bus shortage, but we have the buses we need right now.
Vy and other clients have also seen that the pricing picture has changed since the pandemic areas in 2020 and 2021.
Fuel costs 40 percent more
SSBs index It shows that the cost of diesel buses rose by 10.1 percent from the first quarter of last year to the first quarter of this year. Growth may be greater in the second quarter.
Vy visualizes the daily price of each. Buses will increase by 20 to 25 percent this summer compared to last year, which according to the company was a year at generally lower prices.
However, Schulze asserts that it is not correct to compare prices, because, among other things, they have been adjusted to increase fuel costs. They have increased by 30-40 percent.
– Previously, I could fill the bus with diesel for 5,000 crowns. Now a full tank costs 9,000 crowns, says Torbjørn Arntsen.
But is this the new normal?
Ironically, the recovery in the tour bus industry has created a new form of uncertainty: is this the new normal? Is this a reason to invest in new buses and more next year?
Although many are reporting activity approaching roughly the 2019 level, there are conditions that also indicate that tourism has not yet stabilized after the pandemic.
Much of the uncertainty is related to what happens when Asian tourists return. It was transported largely throughout Norway by Baltic buses, which operated the so-called coastal navigation – transportation between places in a country other than where the carrier belonged.
– So next season will be exciting. Then we will see more clearly how we have to adapt, says Matthias Hoogsgaard on Tide Buss.
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