In over 20 years, ETOA has achieved a level of authority and expertise in the tour operator and incoming European tourism sector
Group tourism, operational delivery and visitors' experience
Good access to the centre of Europe’s cities, and a manageable system for parking, permits and drop-offs is essential for group tourism to function properly. Coach transport must be properly integrated into city access management and infrastructure plans.
Facilities for coaches are often inadequate and poorly located.
Good practice exists, both in terms of good consultation and quality of infrastructure. ETOA’s partner, the IRU (International Road Transport Union) initiated a ‘Smart Move’ campaign to highlight the benefits of coach travel. Environmental emissions standards of EU coaches continue to increase and coach quality in general has improved. ETOA distributes a coach safety card.
Bad practice is widespread: confusing and over-complicated permit systems; poor coach parks; inadequate facilities; lack of consultation; inadequate notice of change. Very significant cost increases have occurred, especially in Italy where the cost of a standard tour has gone up by c. €1000 through additional permits, tolls and other coach-related charges. Regulations relating to driving hours have a significant impact: ETOA was instrumental in the reinstatement of the 12-day rule, but it remains unsatisfactory. Its requirement for an itinerary to be international remains an anomaly unrelated to health and safety. It limits market access for longer one-country tours as it favours domestic operators.
Improved consultation between destinations and industry
Improved information on current access arrangements
Proper provision for private coaches and city access for groups
No charges without clear benefit and due notice
Representation to EC and city authorities as necessary
Participation in ‘high level group’ between EC, EP and industry
Stakeholder meetings with national and international organisations
Explain implications of EU passenger regulations on tour operators
ETOA working group
Coach safety card; IRU Smart Move campaign
The opportunity presented by visitors travelling in organised groups is still not fully appreciated; indeed it is sometimes stigmatised. Yet it is very significant for destinations looking for growth in tourism. Group tours are generally escorted, thus freedom for accompanying tour guides to provide services is a related priority, as are restrictions and costs related to coaching. Group tourism’s business model magnifies marketing effort: one group organiser has a wide audience of potential travellers; group organisers are typically repeat travellers. This significant economic opportunity is threatened by increasing operational costs and regulatory pressure.
Wide recognition of the value of group tourism
Increased product innovation
Better dialogue between stakeholders
Consult ETOA’s group tour operators to ensure we understand needs
Update and promote ETOA’s ‘Groups Mean Business’ charter
Attend and convene stakeholder meetings
Provide a catalyst and a forum for product knowledge and development
How ETOA members get involved
Seminars and surveys
ETOA ‘Groups Mean Business’ charter
Activity is focused on ensuring operators are aware of good practice and supported in their wish to provide the best suited professional to look after their clients. Tour guides need public recognition and professional support. Contractual arrangements should safeguard self-employed status where applicable and desirable.
ETOA introduced a tour guide ID card to help provide ready identification of an individual as a tourism professional engaged by an operator. Individual tour guides may apply directly for these.
Operator concerns include: the need for non-EU individuals to provide services in Europe; personal security of tour guides; their employment status and contractual arrangements; liability and risk management; training. ETOA acts as a forum and centre of expertise.
Wider knowledge of good contracting practice
Practical support for tour guides
Wider use of tour guide’s knowledge and on-tour experience
Discussion with guiding working group
Wider stakeholder consultation to identify and pursue common interests
Provide ID cards and supporting documentation
Design and delivery of fam. trips and other guiding focused events
Join ETOA working group
Reporting problems and relevant activity: abuse and interference on tour guides; news of market access restriction; price fixing; fines
Channel general feedback from tour guides to ETOA
ETOA web resources
Tour Guides: status and accreditation
Client safety is the first priority for all businesses that depend on tourism. Regulation seeks to set minimum legal requirements. Standards bodies seek to define both products and services. Compliance is a full-time concern for any business.
Questions are legion: What should an emergency plan include? How do I know if a hotel has proper fire detection systems? Are the vehicles properly maintained? The interlinked world of insurance, indemnity, consumer rights, due diligence and compliance is complex. Opportunities for process improvement are various: verification of a supplier’s regulatory compliance needs to be easier. A hotelier must often complete a near identical declaration of compliance for all of its commercial clients; this could be streamlined, and ETOA, together with safety audit experts, is exploring ways of doing this. Further simplification and clarification is desirable: for example, variations between coach safety regulations from country to country are not easy to discover.
Risk management must be tailored to each organisation and audience. Some origin markets are more quickly deterred by perceived risk. Tour guides are required to have first-aid training by some operators but not others. A hotel chain may have a more complex policy than a single property. Some customers may need more information about possible risks. Tour operators are typically liable as principal so they need to be able to trust whomever they contract with and need to prove they are justified in doing so. Agents and wholesalers need to secure their position. All should be aware of good practice as well as legal requirements; national variation should not entail operational complexity.
The central questions remain: how to keep people safe without undue limitation; how to manage risk intelligently; how to minimise unnecessary cost and complexity.
Working group and seminars
The web transformed the market for accommodation for consumers and industry alike. With the convenience come new regulatory complexities: the applicability of package travel regulations if ‘accommodation plus’ is sold by an EU-based hotelier and the dampening effect on innovation; ‘best available rate’ agreements and their implications.
Hotels and operators have a mutual interest in health and safety; risk management; regulatory simplicity; improved booking processes; standardised protocols and specification; client satisfaction; quick response to changes in price and demand. Client safety is enhanced if operators have efficient compliance verification processes. Risk is largely a function of poor compliance, not inadequate regulation, yet the risk of well-intentioned over-regulation remains. Europe needs a competitive and innovative accommodation sector. These matters are best addressed through collaboration and discussion among stakeholders.
Europe’s top attractions draw visitors from all over the world. Less well-known attractions can succeed through niche marketing and the demand for more off-the-beaten track visits. There is wide scope to raise awareness as to what attractions offer, and for attractions to adapt their offer to various markets. Risks are evident: the appeal of an attraction is limited if it cannot cope with what consumers and industry want. Poor parking arrangements, long lines, surly service and overcrowding discourage repeat business, deter both the expert and amateur, and create adverse perceptions about ‘mass tourism.’ Increased cost and operational complexity, illustrated by recent arrangements for headsets in the Vatican Museums and St. Peter’s, cause difficulty. Conversely, many attractions provide an excellent service but are relatively unknown thus not yet the catalyst for travel they could be.
Attractions cover a huge spectrum from small hidden-away treasures to world-famous galleries; ancient cathedrals to cutting-edge science museums; theatres to sports halls; dinner cruises to mountain railways. Presented properly, they can provide the highlight of visitor’s experience. The opportunity for improvement is almost unlimited as Europe seeks to reinvent its offer to markets old and new.
Attractions and operators should communicate closely on price, service and booking processes in order to maximise mutual benefit. Innovation is needed to generate wider interest and optimise capacity. Increased awareness is needed in sales networks and product design.
Effective relationships between ETOA and major attractions
Improved capacity management through diversification and optimisation
Improved market awareness among both attractions and operators
Innovation in product and services
Group tourism working group
Provide networking opportunities at ETOA trade events: MAMA, CityFair and GEM all provide a showcase for attractions
Attend events and join working group
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Interested members of the public are welcome to browse the open areas of etoa.org the contents of the website have been drawn from a number of sources and so its accuracy is not guaranteed.
And please be aware that ETOA is an Association whose primary purpose is to campaign for a better regulatory environment. It also provides an information and contact network between its members. ETOA is not a bonding Association. In no way does membership of the Association imply that a member is solvent, or that the services they supply are of a particular standard. Consumers seeking these reassurances should look elsewhere.