Coach companies have been hit hard by the pandemic over the past year, and in many parts of Europe the tourism industry is more or less stagnant.
For family-owned Hellbergs Buss in Skövde, Sweden, charter services are an important part of the business and in 2019, the company invested in three new coaches: two Volvo 9900s and one Volvo 9700. During the pandemic, the buses were mainly used for school transport and train replacement services instead.
Safety for drivers and passengers has been the highest priority over the past year, and for Mikael Hellberg, installing air purifiers in their buses was an obvious decision.
“Of course, we also make sure that passengers can keep their distance from each other and that there is hand sanitizer at the entrance. But the ECO3 air purifier feels like the best measure we can take to create a safe environment for our passengers and drivers. Once installed, it takes care of itself and is activated as soon as the power in the bus is turned on,” says Mikael Hellberg.
The ECO3 disinfection unit is one of the health and safety products that Volvo Buses is offering to help customers increase safety on their coaches during the pandemic. The unit continuously produces ozone gas which cleans the air and reduces the number of particles and organic substances on all surfaces it comes in contact with. It provides comprehensive disinfection of the bus’s interior and is one of the most effective ways of protecting drivers and passengers from bacteria and viruses.
As soon as the air purifiers were installed, Mikael Hellberg made sure to spread the information through the company's social media channels to both existing and new customers. And the response was almost immediate.
We have already received bookings for the coming months that we would not have had otherwise.
“We have already received bookings for the coming months that we would not have had otherwise. Our customers are very aware of the issues, and I believe this will be a decisive factor in the future. As it looks now, the investment in air purifiers means that we can get started a little earlier than we dared to expect,” he says.
Sascha Meurer runs Meurer Touristik, a coach company based near Cologne, Germany. Just like Hellbergs Buss, Meurer Touristik runs replacement buses for trains. They also have permanent assignments where they drive disabled and elderly people to jobs and daytime activities.
Before the pandemic, tourism accounted for 50 per cent of the company's operations, and last year the company's bus fleet was strengthened with a Volvo 9900.
“We only managed to make a few tourist trips during the summer and at the beginning of the autumn. Since November, that business is completely flat here in Germany. Hotels and restaurants are closed, and we currently have no tours booked. I hope it will start again no later than September,” says Sascha Meurer.
In order to offer his customers a travel experience that is as safe as possible, he has also chosen to install the ECO3 in his new Volvo.
“We must do everything we can to protect our passengers and prevent the virus from spreading. In addition to ECO3, we also offer hand sanitizers at the bus entrance and keep distance between passengers. With cleaner buses, our passengers will feel safer. And I also hope that there will be new legal requirements that allow those of us who have air purifiers installed in our coaches to start driving earlier.”
While waiting for tourism to start up again, Sascha Meurer calls his previous customers to talk about what the company can offer and what safety measures have been taken.
It feels good to be able to say that we have installed air purifiers and that we can guarantee a clean bus and safe travel.
“It feels good to be able to say that we have installed air purifiers and that we can guarantee a clean bus and safe travel. Hopefully this will make them choose us when it is possible to travel again,” he says.