City tourism: Operators Update

March 2019

POLICY

 

Brexit

There is no certainty on whether a deal will be agreed between the UK and EU. Recent news is that the UK Prime Minister’s deal will be put to another vote in the UK Parliament by 12 March. Should this not be approved, on 13 March UK Parliament will then vote on whether to leave without a deal. If this proposal is also refused, on 14 March UK Parliament will vote whether to delay Brexit by extending Article 50. Any extension is conditional on the EU agreeing. It is possible the UK’s departure may be delayed until the end of June 2019 or even longer.

Early next week, we will publish a summary of the ‘no deal’ Brexit travel guidance under the Policy tab. This will include areas of concern such as treatment of UK citizens at EU borders, changes to VAT regulations and health insurance.

The European Council has provisionally agreed with the European Parliament to allow the continuation of air services between the UK and EU in the event of no deal for 7 months. This is conditional on reciprocity from the UK Government and the European Council and Parliament formally adopting the regulation (all of which is likely). The 7 months differs from the European Commission’s recommendation to allow flights to continue for 12 months. Airlines would have 6 months in which to comply with the rules on EU ownership.

The European Commission has proposed that channel tunnel services are to be allowed to operate for 3 months post Brexit in the event of no deal to allow bilateral agreements between the UK and neighbouring countries. The UK and France already have a bilateral agreement; the Treaty of Canterbury. This has to be amended. Eurotunnel and Eurostar are both members of ETOA and have communicated they are prepared to operate post Brexit. It is very unlikely that services will be stopped.

For coaches, the UK intends to join the Interbus Agreement which will allow occasional services such as coach tours to continue to operate by UK coach companies in the EU and EU coach companies in the UK. Cabotage will not be allowed where passengers  are picked up and returned outside the coach company’s home country. Until the UK joins the Interbus Agreement, the European Council has provisionally agreed with the European Parliament to allow the continuation of road passenger services until 31 December 2019. This is conditional on reciprocity from the UK Government and the European Council and Parliament formally adopting the regulation (all of which is likely).

For any other information or questions regarding Brexit, please contact policy@etoa.org.

Tour Guide ID cards

The application form for the ETOA Tour Guide ID cards is now open. You can find the application form and more information about the card here. If your company is interested in offering the service to your contracted tour guides, but is not on the list of operators, please contact Sofie Jensen. For all other enquiries about the card, please email tourguide@etoa.org. The price for the card is €25 plus tax. The card is valid until 31 March 2020.

Visa policy

Schengen visa applications will be accepted up to 6 months in advance if the informal agreement following the EU’s ‘trilogue’ discussions becomes law. For more details see here.

A plenary vote in Parliament is expected in April, with changes in effect from May. While this would be a win for ETOA, there is still much more to be done to ensure Schengen visa facilitation improves. For more on ETOA’s visa work and its recent reports, see here.

DESTINATIONS

 

Italy

ETOA held a series of meetings in Italy in February, reflecting its focus on Rome, the Colosseum and Vatican Museums. Operational points arising as below.

Rome Coach plan: A meeting with the Commissioner for Tourism has led to a promise of a meeting with Roma Mobilità to resolve outstanding practical questions about the current coach plan. ETOA will be attending a conference in March focusing on the plan and will raise any member concerns. Please contact Tini Gattazzo for more information.

Colosseum: Its capacity remains 3,000 per hour. The new ticketing arrangement whereby tickets must be pre-paid and cannot be refunded arose from no-show rates from bulk buyers of up to 50%. The directive from the ministry was that as much available capacity as possible must be used. Where groups arrive with fewer than pre-booked numbers, visitors from the individuals line are allowed in. We will continue to discuss how booking / ticketing processes could evolve.

Price increases are currently being discussed and any changes should be made public end of February/early March. Changes, if applicable, should be effective from 01 July 2019. We expect a modest increase. One ‘new’ product option is under discussion: a Forum/Palatine-only ticket, without a timed entry. Given the additional attractions on the Palatine hill, this may present a useful option to operators, especially if access is  possible from via dei Cerchi. We aim to attend another meeting regarding the Colosseum within the next weeks and will update members with any news.

Vatican Museum: The current practice of allowing up to 20% increase to groups on the day, subject to availability, will continue. If numbers are lower than originally booked, only the booking fee will be charged. Overall capacity remains fixed at 35,000 per day; there are no plans for dynamic pricing. The Vatican Museum is interested in promoting perhaps less well-known elements of its estate including San Giovanni Laterano and the Ville Pontificie by Castel Gandolfo as well as out-of-hours tours, including the early morning ‘clavigero’ tour. Given the close connection between the Vatican and Rome in terms of itinerary design and related logistics, we will continue to explore options for joint discussion.

In Florence we met representatives of culture, UNESCO and international relations departments in order to discuss product development and capacity management, and the dynamics behind the city’s tourism strategy as this May’s elections approach.

Venice – landing contribution: At the beginning of February the City of Venice announced more information about the new landing contribution applicable from 01 May 2019. The presentation can be found here and include some of the main features of the plan, including rates: From 01 May 2019 to 31 December 2019 the rate will be €3 pp. From 01 January 2020 the rate will range from €3-€10 depending on day/season. We expect more information and operational requirements to be announced shortly and we are in close contact with local stakeholders to ensure we receive the latest information.

Venice – Save the date: 09 April 2019 at 15:30, ETOA will be hosting a seminar and panel discussion in Venice on sustainable tourism followed by networking drinks. The venue will be Scala Contarini del Bovolo. The seminar is free to attend for members and non-members. If you would like to hear more, please contact Tini Gattazzo or Manuela Saccone or click this link to register your interest.

France

Eiffel Tower: The area surrounding the Eiffel Tower (Trocadéro gardens and Champde-Mars) will be refurbished in the years up to the 2024 Olympics. Members of the public and tourism professionals have been invited to participate in a consultation. The consultation is open until 01 March. Please follow this link to read more and this link to contribute. There is still only one lift operating at the Eiffel Tower and members are expecting another challenging year for groups. We are keeping a close eye on any developments and will continue to seek clarification from the management. Please contact Sofie Jensen if you have any question or comments.

Guiding in Paris: A verbal attack and threats from a local ‘guide’ to another walking tour guide has been reported in Paris. Local tourism board as well as the local guide association immediately dissociated with such behaviour and confirmed that guiding in the street does not require a licence. A licence is only required in national museums and monuments. We believe that this incident will remain highly unusual, but please contact Sofie Jensen if you have had similar experiences recently.

Paris – Save the date: On 27 March at 18:30 ETOA will be celebrating our 30th anniversary in Paris. All members and non-members are welcome, subject to capacity. The event is free of charge. An official invitation will be sent out shortly, but please click here to submit your interest.

Our Paris working group will meet on 28 March. If you would like to hear more
about the topics under discussion, please contact Yamin Saadi or Tim Fairhurst.

Netherlands

In the last week of February we have meetings with the Gemeente ‘City in Balance’ team; Amsterdam Marketing and CELTH. We will participate in a workshop on 28 February. Renewed efforts are needed to promote a more collaborative approach between industry and destination; the city recognises this, and ETOA will be working hard to support that process. Managing community perceptions is central to city policy, keeping residents at the centre of any plan. We are in discussion with national authorities about wider product development opportunities inside and outside Amsterdam.

Amsterdam: The city intends to raise €105million from the visitor economy, which could also affect locals who visit attractions if plans for a ‘vermakelijkhedenretributie’ (VMR) go ahead. In effect, VMR is a levy on entrance charges at museums, attractions etc.) The city is still consulting about these proposals. The introduction of a day tax on cruise passengers, and overnight taxes, contribute to this fiscal goal; they are not a capacity management mechanism. Some cruise ship volume has already moved to Rotterdam, organising coach excursions to Amsterdam to avoid the €8 per passenger daily fee.

This approach mirrors dialogue we have seen in Scotland: whereas tourism contributes significantly to national revenues via VAT and corporation tax, associated costs for local infrastructure are generally a local concern. ETOA will continue to oppose an opportunistic approach to taxing tourism, and push for reciprocal service. For ETOA’s recent position paper on tourism tax, see this page.

Despite group tours representing perhaps 10% of the volume of visitors in the restricted areas of the city, and group members’ behaviour more manageable thanks to group leaders and tour guides, organised walking tours are subject to increasing regulation. The 90% not. The absolute carrying capacity of the restricted area is clearly a concern, with public safety issues arising from overcrowding the most commonly cited reason for control. ETOA understands that the city will begin a wideranging review in 2019 whose scope may include whether the Red Light District should remain as it is.

Guiding in Amsterdam: Despite group tours representing perhaps 10% of the volume of visitors in the restricted areas of the city, and group members’ behaviour more manageable thanks to group leaders and tour guides, organised walking tours are subject to increasing regulation. The 90% not. The absolute carrying capacity of the restricted area is clearly a concern, with public safety issues arising from overcrowding the most commonly cited reason for control. ETOA understands that the city will begin a wide-ranging review in 2019 whose scope may include whether the Red Light District should remain as it is.

As mentioned in our January Interim update and February update, Amsterdam Gemeente held a consultation regarding stricter regulation in the Amsterdam Wallen area (including the Red Light District). The consultation closed on 31 January. On 08 February we received the new regulations which will commence from 01 April 2019:

“December 11 2018 the city council decided to change the local legislation for this area. The mayor can now decide to limit walking tours in a particular area to time acceptable slots. The mayor immediately decided to restrict the time slot for  walking tours in the Wallen area till 19:00 instead of 23:00 to relieve the pressure by crowds in the area from April 1st onwards.”

We are currently not aware if submissions during the consultation period have or will be considered as the decision apparently was made in December. We are following
the developments closely.

It appears that the city feels that controlling access for organised groups is a necessary response to local concerns. This position is maintained despite the fact that tour guides can influence group behaviour, and that anti-social behaviour is typically associated with individual visitors, not groups.

Spain

Alhambra: Challenges in renewing agent licences to book tickets at Alhambra have been reported. It is now necessary for all agents to submit nine specific documents to be able to apply for/renew licence. We have been in contact with Alhambra to understand the new requirements. They are aware of the difficulties and have agreed on the below:
• Renewal of agent’s status: they will extend the period to send all documents required, which in principle is due at the end of February. They will allow 10 extra days.
• They will keep ETOA informed if any discrepancies arise with the documents sent from any of our members. If they are unsure whether a company is or is not one of our members, they will contact us. There are no further meetings planned for the time being, due to structural changes and upcoming elections. They will let us know when a new structure is in place and continue the regular meetings. If you have any questions regarding Alhambra ticketing or if you experience difficulties with the new requirements, please contact Jorge Traver.

United Kingdom

Edinburgh tourism tax: Earlier this month Edinburgh City Council approved the introduction of a tourist tax ‘Transient Visitor Levy’ (should the national Government give the City Council authority to implement). The tourist tax would be £2 a night for all accommodation (except campsites) for a maximum of 7 consecutive nights year round. The city council anticipate that an estimated £14.6 million would be collected and reinvested back into the city annually as a result. “Investment would be targeted at infrastructure and public services improvements to improve the visitor experience of Edinburgh, increase its attractiveness and competitiveness as a destination, and managing the consequences of that success for residents” (Edinburgh City Council).

Although not confirmed we understand it is likely Edinburgh City Council will be given the authority to implement the levy in approximately 18-24 months (due to a national budget deal).

Our first 2019 Group Tourism Working Group will take place in London in our new offices on 02 May 2019. The purpose of this working group is to understand general challenges for group tourism and operational updates throughout Europe. If you would like to hear more, please contact Sofie Jensen.

EVENTS

 

Past

• 06-08 February: ETOA attended the Conference on Managing Sustainable Tourism Growth in Europe which took place in Krakow hosted by ETC. This was followed by ETCs general meeting where ETOA spoke about its dialogue and engagement with destinations.
• 13-15 February: ETOA attended ECM’s Spring meeting in Edinburgh.
• 15 February: ETOA participated in a panel discussion on sustainable tourism at the Bergamo Conference and Marketplace of Ideas “Sustainable Tourism for Rural Development“, also representing NET.
• 25 February: ETOA spoke to members of the UK Coach Tourism Association at their annual conference on Brexit and sustainability in cities.

Upcoming

• 28 February, Amsterdam: ETOA will attend CELTH’s ‘SCITHOS CHALLENGE’ Smart Tourism Solutions; a workshop dedicated to sustainable tourism in cities.
• 04-05 March, Berlin: ETOA will attend and speak at the Arival conference, focusing on in-destination experiences. Please contact Sofie Jensen if you would like to meet.
• 06 March: ETOA will present to the European Council in Brussels at its ‘Working Party on Competitiveness and Growth – Tourism’
• 06 March: ETOA will attend the IRU/EU Road Transport Conference discussing road user charging.
• 06-08 March, Berlin: ETOA will be present and have a stand at ITB Berlin. Please visit us in Hall 9, stand 320. If you would like to meet to discuss any
operational challenges or other non-commercial aspects, please contact Sofie Jensen.

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