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In over 20 years, ETOA has achieved a level of authority and expertise in the tour operator and incoming European tourism sector

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Operational Delivery Policies

Group tourism, operational delivery and visitors' experience

Coach Transport and City Access


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

How ETOA members get involved
  • ETOA working group

Further information and commentary

Group Tourism


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

Further information and commentary

Guiding: ID Cards, Operations and Contracting


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

How ETOA members get involved

  • 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

Further information and commentary

See policy documents on Educational Travel, Group Tourism, Professional Qualifications Directive and Working Time Directive.

ETOA web resources


Health and Safety


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.


  • Access to relevant information and expertise for operators
  • Raised awareness and good practice sharing
  • Process improvement for hotel and coach safety audits and verification

  • Activity

  • Work with industry partners to provide relevant information
  • Agenda for working group on hotels to include health and safety issues
  • Work with IRU to develop central resource for coach safety regulations
  • Seminars

  • How ETOA members get involved

  • Working group and seminars

  • Hotels


    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.

    Matters of mutual interest for hoteliers and those who purchase accommodation include: health and safety; booking processes; due diligence; systematising hotel specification information; hotel quality rating systems and their effect; user-generated rating platforms and related marketing; service levels to clients from all markets; verification of regulatory compliance and insurance cover; capacity management; off-season travel.

    Apart from long-haul flights, accommodation is generally the most significant cost component of any tour, and is the main product for accommodation re-sellers, bed banks and other online consolidators, and the FIT industry more broadly. The commercial necessity for this market to operate in a properly competitive and mutually beneficial way is clear. ETOA seeks to convene all interested parties to identify mutual interests, talk through issues arising and support the implementation of agreed outcomes. 

    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.


  • A competitive and transparent multi-channel market for accommodation
  • Industry-led improvements to process and service
  • Intelligent regulation and risk management

  • Activity

  • Development of an ETOA working group
  • Monitoring of consumer or sector specific regulation
  • Seminars on health and safety, legal issues surround best available rate, etc

  • How ETOA members get involved

  • ETOA working group and seminars
  • Visitor Attractions 


    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

  • Sector-specific seminars

  • How ETOA members get involved

  • Attend events and join working group