TOURISM – With the sudden and shocking announcement of Greyhound ending service in BC, Alberta and Saskatchewan the news media has had continuous and widespread commentary on the many reasons why and how this could possibly have happened. It is almost inconceivable that this long standing and once very prosperous organization finds itself in the position of closing its doors in so many Canadian locations and all but eliminating a very important transportation access option in our region. Greyhound has been an invisible silver thread that has connected our 90 regional communities and made it possible for residents and visitors alike to navigate our vast Western Canadian landscape.
It has been argued over the past week that the company did not adapt with the changing times; that low-cost air carriers have had a direct effect on bus ridership and that business volumes have declined as much as 40 per cent in recent years. Others have cited that pick-up times and locations were factors; such as 4 a.m. departures out of small town gas stations, where people often felt unsafe. On the courier side of the business, while it is possible that the “Amazon” factor has played a role in declining revenues it must be said this did not help that the Greyhound Courier Brand that their pick-up and delivery locations were not open after 5 pm and closed on weekends. That is a service level that is an unsustainable model.
However, perhaps we also need to dig a bit deeper to understand other, and far more concerning, issues that may have been at play. What, if any, was the effect of Wall Street and the antics of stockbrokers coupled with back room deals and corporate takeovers? How did the sale of Greyhound to Laidlaw and then to a UK based organization play a role in where they find themselves today? Was the writing on the wall when they moved their once Calgary based Canadian head offices to Houston? Was the biggest issue that ultimately faced the company the rumoured corporate loans taken out against a once strong balance sheet and the resulting exorbitant payments to shareholders that really contributed to what is happening on the ground today? Perhaps we will never know, perhaps I am overly cynical, but it is a fact that we have seen this story play out before our Country and we will watch it happen again and again until we root out the real issues at hand.
For now, we have a transportation and access gap that will need to be addressed in the immediate future and TOTA will be working with our partners to find solutions to do just that. There is no question that regional bus service is required and that there are operators ready and willing to take this on. Operators who see a viable and growing business opportunity for the short and long term and have strong business cases.
So once again, it does beg the question…Who Really Let the Dogs Out?
Glenn Mandziuk is President and Chief Executive Officer of the Thompson Okanagan Tourism Region. He can be reached at [email protected]