Expectations of a slow winter prompted layoffs of nine workers
Andrew A. Duffy, Times Colonist
Gray Line West has cut back its tour schedule and laid off nine of its 119 Victoria staff, citing a challenging tourist season and expectations for a slow winter.
The company, which operates year-round sight-seeing tours and charter coach services in Victoria, Calgary and Banff, said the prospects of a lean winter forced its hand.
“We have put into effect a reduced business model in Victoria. The tourism industry is facing some challenging times and the forecast is for tourism revenue to decline in Victoria,” said Ian Robertson, executive director of corporate communications for the Armstrong Group, which owns Gray Line West and other operations such as the Rocky Mountaineer train.
“For us, at winter season it’s a particularly challenging time for tourism, and to continue with a full operation is not financially viable.”
The result is a reduction in the number of coaches on the road and tours the company will run through the city on any given day.
Robertson said they won’t be eliminating any particular tours — they offer grand city driving tours, attraction loop tours and trips to Butchart Gardens, among others — instead opting to reduce the number of options and times people can take them.
The layoffs affect management and maintenance positions. There will be no reductions or layoffs at any of Gray Line’s other operations.
Robertson also quashed rumours Armstrong Group was putting the Gray Line West division up for sale.
“We are always looking at opportunities, but the mandate we have given to Victoria and our operations in Banff is to develop a strong business plan for growth, and we continue on that track,” he said.
Armstrong Group bought Gray Line in 2005 as a complement to its other tourism businesses.
“We saw it as a fit with the Rocky Mountaineer train and Whistler Mountaineer, so it was a natural fit for our overall tourism strategy,” he said, noting the Victoria operation could expand again if the need arises.
“Certainly if the indications are that we are going to have a strong tourism season in summer, we would look at increasing our workforce and offering more tour options,” he said.