Bus tours of N.Y. brought to a halt

September 30, 2001|By June Arney

Lynne Komins, one of the owners of Superior Tours in Pikesville, can't get the image of the New York skyline as it looked Sept. 9 out of her mind. She was on Ellis Island, where she had accompanied a tour, and remembers the sky being deep blue and the view to the World Trade Center towers crystalline.

That was before Ellis Island, America's former immigration center, became a makeshift morgue.

Immediately after the attack, Komins' buses were cut off from Manhattan. The blockade was temporary, but it was only the beginning of a slump in business for her 7-year-old, family-run tour bus company.

"People were fearful to go anywhere," she said. "They were glued to their televisions."

Superior's business is down 50 percent to 60 percent from this time last year - an anticipated loss of $100,000 in revenue through mid-October - during what traditionally is the tour bus industry's busiest season in the mid-Atlantic. The company runs daily tours to New York and Atlantic City six days a week, as well as special trips.

"These are the months that you have to do your business to prepare for the slow months," said Jeff Komins, Lynne Komins' son and another owner. "If everything cancels now, by the time the winter months come, you're in real trouble."

The threat of U.S. military action could prolong the downturn.

"The last thing people are going to do is go traveling if there's a war," he said. "This is extremely serious. It couldn't be any more serious for a business like ours."

Lynne Komins thinks she senses a shift in public mood. The phones are ringing more often, she says. A bus to New York last weekend was full.

But Superior has reduced drivers' hours significantly, and with less money coming in and many groups canceling for next month, the situation is quickly becoming dire. "We're just doing the best we can and hoping business will pick up," Jeff Komins said.

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