Manager Jackie Verrall said the industry, which stretches between Hove and Lancing, was generally “very vibrant” but, since the Covid pandemic, it has struggled to do business.
Jackie said: “We’ve been mandated to close for two years and now that we’ve reopened we can’t find foster families for some reason.
“Unfortunately the work is coming back but we are now turning away students – it’s a shame for us, of course, but also for the city where students spend a lot of money.
“Other people like me have shut down and given up. They can’t be bothered.”
Jackie said she has been asked to support overseas students based in Eastbourne and Bournemouth due to nationwide shortages.
She added: “For some reason something has changed in people’s mentality and they don’t want students.
“We’ve generally seen this all over the UK and I don’t know why.
“Where have the host families gone? Why did they change their minds?
Jackie said it was becoming a ‘huge problem’, adding: ‘We had to close three centres. We are now down to two coaches [from six].
“Where we could have put three children in a family, it is now four.
“Officers are getting so desperate. Other people who’ve been doing it for years have given up, they’re saying it’s not worth getting worse. Probably in a way it’s not too bad.”
Jackie doesn’t think the lack of interest was caused by people concerned about the risk of Covid.
She added: “People guessed it was a natural waste. Firstly, people are still working from home, but with the recession approaching, you’d think we’d have a lot of host families.
“The host families we have are really helpful but they only have a limited number of beds.
“We put ads in stores, on Facebook, in groups. The newsletter goes out to about 300 people. I’ve asked host families. I’ve offered a search commission. People are trying. The host families are great, they are loyal and really want to help but nothing comes.
“It’s one of the great mysteries of life. Next year everything will be different.
“This year is disappointing. It’s our third season without being able to trade.”
Jackie said a few years ago – in the heady pre-COVID days – the business hosted six coaches most weeks in the Brighton area, ‘full of overseas students’.
They were scheduled for a “boom year” in 2020 with more than 125 coaches booked.
Instead, the company lost more than half of its foster families.
Jackie added: “I have to say I was stunned when we got our first coach and it was a real job to place a coach – so what hope do I have with six?
“Students are a huge industry and never more so than in the local Brighton area, with students spending money on shops, tourist attractions, buses and of course accommodation.