"WE WENT out with our heads held high."

These were the words of the manager of Isle of Wight Tours, which announced its closure last Thursday following disastrous trading due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The award-winning and highly successful firm bowed out after seeing a loss in bookings, and having to sort more than two million pounds worth of refunds for cancelled trips.

Geoff Holt said he hoped the business would somehow rise again 'like a phoenix from the ashes', but first he was going to hibernate over the winter and have a good rest.

He said: "I would like to stress we are not bankrupt, we have gone out with our heads held high and paid all our bills, but we've got no money left.

"We didn't want to close without looking after our customers. All the mainland customers got their money back as group travel is protected, but the sad fact is the industry doesn't protect excursions, but most people pay by credit card and we have helped them get their money back.

"We had a glimmer of hope in September and thought maybe things would get back to normal, but now we are into a second wave it is just obvious it is not safe or feasible for us to operate.

"We had already lost 90 per cent of our trade for the year and people are reluctant to book for next year.

"Although the government said no business would be left behind, our industry has sadly been forgotten."

Isle of Wight County Press:

It was costing the business £1,900 a day to stand still during the pandemic, due to insurance costs, finance on the coaches, and the office in Lake.

Geoff said not classing the coach business as leisure was disastrous for the industry, and the #BackBritainsCoaches fight went to government — a campaign launched by the Confederation of Passenger Transport (CPT).

Along with the CPT, IW Tours managing director Shirley Winn held meetings with Chancellor Rishi Sunak, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab, and Secretary of State for Transport Grant Shapps.

A statement by the firm said last week: "We want to thank you for allowing us to have looked after you, some of our customers have been loyal for all 31 years we have been trading.

"We have laughed together, cried together and enjoyed each other’s company over the years, and we are really going to miss each and every one of you."