Costly and unreasonable fees for coaches bringing visitors to historic cities are damaging tourism and could ultimately hit the local economies of key heritage sites, according to speakers at the ETOA annual conference. Dieter Hardt-Stremayr, president of European Cities Marketing, told ETOA members gathered in London that no city tourist board wanted to ban coaches, but pressures were coming from city governments to restrict access. He called for a new partnership between tour operators and coach tour companies to lobby for better conditions to promote coach travel.
“Coach touring is a success story across Europe,” he said. “But we need the help of tour operators to convince city officials that coaches are not evil. Perhaps it is time to signal the threat of tour operators staying away from cities where there are too many unreasonable restrictions.”
This view was echoed by Simon Hillyer, coaching manager for Trafalgar Tours. He said some cities seemed to actively discourage group tourism by imposing “exorbitant” fees for permits. “Cities are using us as a way to make money. We are never consulted when they want to bring in permit regimes. They cannot keep using coach tourism as a cash cow,” he said.
“The money from permit fees is not being spent on sensible pick-up arrangements. Often there are no toilet facilities, and the coach park can be a 20-minute walk away. This is too much for many of our customers.”
Mr. Hillyer gave a warning that some cities would lose out in tourism earnings because of the difficulties they impose. “Some tour directors are no longer taking their groups to city center restaurants where access was too difficult.”