COVID FAQ

Below are some frequently asked questions about the motor coach industry, the group travel industry, and OMCA related to the current pandemic. If you are looking for an answer not found here, please contact info@omca.com.

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Are we allowed to travel?

The short answer is YES.

Although restrictions on leisure travel remain across many international borders and even some provincial borders, local travel is allowed if not encouraged. With the incredible impact that COVID-19 restrictions have had on both our economy and our mental health, travelling locally is an awesome way to clear our heads while supporting Canadian businesses.

This third-party website provides details on where Canadians are able to travel, based on their starting point: https://time-to-travel.ca/where-canadians-can-travel-now

Is the motor coach industry permitted to operate?

Yes.

The transportation of people has always been considered an essential service. However, Tour Services are prohibited in regions that are in a Lockdown Zone. Find out what Zone each region is in at https://covid-19.ontario.ca/zones-and-restrictions 

In order to operate, motor coach operators are required to abide by applicable public health measures and have reasonable measures in place to do their part in preventing the spread of COVID-19. To see what measure OMCA members have in place, visit https://www.omca.com/covid-19/covid-19-motor-coach-measures/

Are group tours currently permitted to operate?

This depends on what Zone the region of operation is in according to the covid 19 response framework: keeping Ontario safe and open

Tour services are permitted in all Zones except Lockdown (Grey Zone) as long as appropriate measures are in place according to public health guidelines. To see what measure OMCA members have in place, visit https://www.omca.com/covid-19/covid-19-motor-coach-measures/

For details on Stage 3, visit https://www.ontario.ca/page/framework-reopening-our-province-stage-3

What are the capacity limits on a motor coach?

There is no magic number as to the number of passengers permitted on a motor coach.

Neither the government or OMCA have set a number to limit the capacity of all buses, primarily because there are factors that allow capacity limitations to vary. For example, accommodating 2-meters of physical distancing between 20 individual passengers will require more empty seats than accommodating physical distancing between 2 groups of 10-person social circles (because those in a social circle are not required to physically distance amongst themselves). Read more about social circles here.  Some travel and tour operators are even encouraging customers to travel with their social circle (eg. the G-Adventures "Book Your Bubble" campaign).

In the end, the answer to this question will be established on a case-by-case basis taking into consideration the group that will be travelling and the safety protocols that are in place.

Has the government provided any guidance for the motor coach industry?
What safety protocols can we expect on a motor coach?

OMCA Motor Coach Operators have carefully considered this question and put together a media kit that outline the safety protocols being taken by bus operators. As always, operators continue to find ways to make their buses safe to travel in and many operators will have found ways to go beyond the procedures outlined in the documents.

To see the video and accompanying documents created by OMCA and its members, please visit https://www.omca.com/covid-19/covid-19-motor-coach-measures/.

As with the question of capacity limitations, it is strongly recommended to contact the motor coach company directly to ask specifically what measures they have in place, as they may vary slightly.

What safety protocols can we expect from group tour operators?

OMCA Tour Operators have thought long and hard about how to provide the safest way for their groups to travel in a COVID world. Tour Operators have acknowledged that their quality of operation comes down to the safety measures of each and every tourism partner that they work with on each trip.

With that, OMCA Tour Operator members have agreed that they will only work with Covid-19 Safety Protocol vendors.  This applies to:

  • Motor Coach Operators
  • Restaurants
  • Attractions
  • Theatres/Events
  • Hotels

Each Tour Operator will provide documentation to passengers at the time of booking of what to expect on their trip and what protocols the Tour Company is following.

It is the responsibility of the passengers or group leader booking the tour to ask what protocols are in place to ensure the safety of all passengers and ensure a level of comfort in group travel.

Are face masks required on a motor coach?

Yes. As of October 2nd, 2020, masks are mandatory throughout the province of Ontario in all indoor public areas, on transit, and in workplaces where physical distancing isn’t possible. For details on the face mask requirements and exemptions, please visit www.ontario.ca/page/face-coverings-and-face-masks

Is OMCA a government entity?

No. OMCA is a non-profit industry association developed in 1929 as a way to bring the industry together. OMCA is not funded by the government in any way and uses the dues from its members to continue to service and represent the industry.

With that, OMCA does not have the authority to implement industry regulations, rather it acts as a liaison between the government and the industry.

Has OMCA asked the Federal Government for industry support?

Yes. Very early in the pandemic OMCA (through Motor Coach Canada) wrote a letter to the tourism minister demanding that the motor coach industry not be forgotten when administering industry bailouts (such as the airline industry).

The response from the government was that they have no intention of bailing out specific industries during this global crisis. Instead they chose to administer programs that could be useful across all industries such as CEWS, CECRA, RRRF, LEEFF, CEBA, extended tax payments, extended layoff periods, etc.

Other federal lobbying efforts include:

  • Seek extension to CEWS; Granted through June 2021
  • Participate as Co-Chair in Land Border Working Group to re-open international borders
  • Deferred regulations for technology improvements related to accessible transportation
  • Advocacy to allow passenger limits to be flexible for the motor coach sector
  • Lobby for personal income tax credit for domestic travel on a motor coach
Has OMCA asked the Provincial Government for industry support?

Yes! In June, OMCA wrote a letter to the Tourism Minister asking that:

  1. The Ministry to provide grants of up to 50% to tour and coach operators for their marketing plans up to a maximum of $40,000 per operator. These marketing plans would have to be approved by the Ministry and would have to be focused on promoting Ontario tourism.
  2. The Ministry establish a $400/day subsidy to coach operators for Ontario destination trips in order to help reduce the transportation costs for groups.

With this letter, OMCA launched a letter-writing campaign encouraging OMCA members to write their MPPs and the minster as well. To find out more and get involved, go to https://www.omca.com/covid-19/premier-letter-writing-campaign/.

OMCA has not received a response from Minister McLeod and does not expect to until the fall. Please continue to send supporting letters while the provincial government carefully considers our ask.

What else is OMCA doing in response to COVID-19?

COVID-19 launched the world into a period of great uncertainty which sparked a fire in OMCA staff to provide as much clarity, support and information to its members that it possibly could. OMCA have worked tirelessly to reach every single member and provide support in every way possible.

To support members and assist the industry's recovery, OMCA has:

  • regular communication with US agencies, such as FEMA, CISA, CDC.
  • partnered with other industry supporters, such as:
    • TIAC, TIAO and other tourism partners to encourage safe and pragmatic re-opening strategies with local governments
    • British Columbia Trucking Association (representing BC motor coach operators)
    • Bus Carriers Federation in Quebec
  • Lobbied successfully for no “new” regulations on the industry in response to COVID
  • Offered DLSC subscribers the chance to opt-out of mandatory quarterly driver checks
  • Adjusted the format of the annual OMCA Marketplace to accommodate travel and budget restrictions of our members
  • Prepared marketing package including email template, PDF for print campaign and a video addressing the safety of motor coach travel
  • Developed tools and resources for members, such as:
    • COVID19 Liability draft travel waiver
    • Lunch and learn webinars to convalesce with industry peers and exchange ideas and information
    • Lunch and Learn webinars with technology providers and suppliers on tech available to address COVID
    • Implementation of an online portal allowing tour operators to find destination COVID information in one convenient spot
    • Implementation of an online Facebook member community

Beyond the aforementioned efforts, government asks, and industry standards documents, OMCA continues its communication efforts with regular COVID bulletins, member webinars and regular council meetings and as many one-on-one phone calls with members as possible.

OMCA is constantly listening and responding to the needs of its membership. We continue to encourage all members to reach out with any questions or concerns that they need guidance or assistance with.

What federal support is there for my business?