When Gov. Phil Murphy officially announced that students wouldn’t be returning to their classrooms this year, parents and teachers weren’t the only ones weighted with disappointment. The industries that support student extracurriculars, like field trips and prom, were hit with a loss of revenue they’d relied on for years.
Tim Stout, president of Stout’s Transportation in Toms River and president of the Greater New Jersey Motorcoach Association, told NJBIZ that the cancellation of class trips, sports games and student events have cut revenue for the year in what was expected to be a busy season.
Students are a meaningful part of the ridership at Stout’s Transportation and the other 51 GNJMA members, who say revenue is down 95 percent and statewide employment went from 3,500 to under 600.
“When we had a GNJMA meeting in the first week of March, there were no changes in ridership and all our schools were still traveling. In that one week, once the NBA cancelled – we do the inbound NBA once whoever’s playing the Sixers fly into Philadelphia – once the NBA announced they were cancelling transportation, that’s when I was really nervous,” Stout said. “The NBA, the universities, the schools, it snowballed until it was down to zero. Within a week we went from sales for the month to zero.”
It doesn’t help that while airlines and Amtrak have gotten billions in federal relief money, the motorcoach industry has gotten nothing, despite transporting 600 million people each year nationally. It’s a $6.2 billion industry in New Jersey alone, and through June, operators will lose more than $130 million, according to the association.
If the motorcoach industry doesn’t get relief in future bailout packages, Stout worries that many of the players in it—mostly family-owned businesses like his, which was started by his grandfather—won’t be around when school trips are back up and running.
“People are like ‘I never really realized that my kid goes to Washington, D.C. on a motorcoach each year, and we might have to drive him next year because there won’t be any buses around.’” Stout said.