ETOA Interim Destination & Operational News | July 2022
Interim Update: 14th July 2022
- Barcelona: group size restrictions in old town
- Venice: access charge for day visitors
- Paris: 2024 volume forecasts and assumptions
This interim update provides urgent information related to group walking tours in Barcelona old town, and an update about arrangements for Venice’s long-postponed day visitor access charge. It also reports research on expected visitor numbers during Paris 2024 Olympics and Paralympics.
Given the situation in Barcelona, unprecedented in its lack of notice, please send any reports of practical preparation, local communication, or enforcement action to email@example.com
A renewed focus on managing visitor flow was expected as tourism recovered, but so was proper consultation given the collaborative spirit that developed through the pandemic; its lack is now more conspicuous.
Problems at top attractions have returned: for example, booking and ticketing processes at the Alhambra are not operating as promised. We are looking into this urgently.
- The city intends to limit guided group size to 15 plus guide within the old town.
- Guides will be personally liable for penalties, subject to fines from €1,500.
- The start date of the new regime was 13th July going by the terms of the decree.
- ETOA understands that the earliest possible in-force date is 22nd July.
- The new regulation’s initial duration is 6 months.
If this new law is enforced (assuming it is in fact enforceable) it will be viewed with dismay as an apparently aggressive act against the cultural group tourism that ETOA’s members deliver, and the value it represents. A complete change to business conditions needs notice. Seeking to manage visitor flow intelligently is necessary; bad law is not. The official decree (in Catalan) is available here. An unofficial English version is available here.
For more background and commentary, see Barcelona (continued) below.
Members have enquired whether, following 1st July’s official announcement, there is any more information about the cost and operation of Venice’s day tax whose implementation is currently expected from 16th January 2023. Following ETOA exchanges this week with those close to the administration, the short answer is no.
The range remains €3 – €10, the standard or typical tariff may be €6, and the mechanics are still to be determined. For presentation format of the proposals, click here. For more background and commentary, see Venice (continued) below.
Paris visitor volume forecasts during Olympics and Paralympics
Members looking ahead to 2024 bookings in and around Paris during the period of the Olympics (27th July – 11th August) and Paralympics (28th August to 8th September) will be interested in research commissioned by ETOA’s partner, OTCP. A summary of the findings (in French) is available here.
The headline assumptions, characterised as conservatively high, are of 15.1MN visitors. Of these, 3.3MN will have event tickets, 11.8MN will not. 13.9MN domestic visitors are expected (92% of total), 43% coming from Ile de France. In addition, 2.3MN visitors made up of 1.1MN domestic visitors from outside Ile de France and 1.2MN international visitors are expected. European markets such as the Netherlands may contribute a larger share than usual due to past patterns of attendance at sporting events.
The study is preliminary, focused on leisure visitors to the games (not athletes, journalists, sponsors, volunteers etc.), and will be revised in the light of the games’ evolving ticketing strategy. Distinctions are drawn between day visitors, other domestic visitors, and between European and long-haul visitors.
The research acknowledges the deterrent effect on normal tourism of large events. This may improve projected availability at museums and other venues often struggling to cope with demand if a significant proportion of normal visitors will stay away. While the overall visitor volume is expected to be slightly above 2019, international visitors to Paris are expected to comprise 41% of the total, representing an 18.2% decrease versus a normal year.
Of primary concern to buyers is hotel availability, price, and related T&Cs. Further work is being done by OTCP to model the impact of a range of average stays according to origin market of guests.
City Access (continued)
How tourism functions in Europe’s historic centres matters to visitors and residents alike. The previous approach in Barcelona seeking to develop and agree good practice (for example, click here ) seems to have been sidelined in favour of a shoot-first-ask-questions later approach to management by regulation. We will continue to argue the merits of creative collaboration and stakeholder dialogue.
So far as ETOA has been able to learn from informal conversations, there are widely differing views among public officials and elected representatives on the topic. There may be a populist appeal to be seen to ‘do something’ about a perceived nuisance, whose political dividend at local elections could pay off before any legal dispute resolves, irrespective of sectoral grievances and adverse PR.
We have had limited success in maintaining dialogue with city officials. Given the economic impact of the pandemic through the loss of the visitor economy, especially from long-haul business, we believe there is in-house acknowledgement that the situation is problematic. Irrespective of the merits of any political calculation, the practical consequences and risks are evident.
From the perspective of enforceability, the busy Guardia Urbana will have to divert their attention to counting tourists. Prioritisation of resources will be in question given the risk of street crime and the importance of Barcelona’s image as a safe and welcoming destination. Recent reports suggest that safety problems have not gone away: El Independiente, 19th June; La Vanguardia 3rd June; El País, 30th May.
There is no guidance as to what is sufficient separation between the groups of 15+1 so that they are considered distinct. There has been no effort to inform the international travel trade, consult on appropriate compensation for guides who may lose expected work not subject to cancellation terms, or define what constitutes a guided group. The potential impact of ‘bunching’ immediately outside the area subject to restrictions is unexplored.
Aggravating factors include: insufficient consultation or pilot programmes to develop options for change; lack of notice of inflationary change on product already sold; distance of drop-off and pick-up points from area typically presented in old-town walking tours; impact on museums and other attractions and services within the affected zone; availability of guides and relative economic appeal of ‘additional guide’ work; functionality and availability of radio headsets when multiple transmitters are required; likely loss of work to local guides (as the change will accelerate growth in demand for self-guided tours delivered via smart phones); apparent failure to consider the needs of groups accompanied by both local guides and tour guides; safety of school groups and related logistical challenges.
While the Municipality recognises that more information is needed, no news is expected before September. This should include: the applicable fees (ranging from €3-€10 per person per day) and daily visitor thresholds, based on the notional carrying capacity of the city. We will continue to try to feed into discussion about the scheme’s implementation. The delays to date have been partly due to practical obstacles and impact assessment. Industry insight is needed to understand both.
Operationally, once the threshold is exceeded, access for daily visitors will still be possible but a higher fee than standard – up to the maximum of €10. ‘Standard’ may prove to be €6, but this is a guess based on previous regulation. The €10 maximum would only apply when the carrying capacity of the city is exceeded, and only on dates such as Redentore, Carnival and New Year.
We understand that the fee will vary within some days, with times at which the fee will not be applicable. This may help manage peaks and drive the night-time economy. We understand a reduced fee may apply if access is booked in advance (perhaps 30 days). The uncertainty of a variable price complicates costing at a time when competitiveness is being squeezed by inflation.
The booking system will notify how many ‘standard’ fee access passes remain before the daily threshold is reached and elevated rates closer to or at €10 will apply. Verification of payment will be via QR codes generated by the booking system. The booking system is expected to be soft-launched on a voluntary basis later this year, offering incentives to visitors.
Exemptions will apply that largely do not affect leisure day visitors from outside the city or region, apart from children under 6 years old for whom the tax is not payable. Overnight visitors staying within the municipality paying tassa di soggiorno are also exempt. One category of exemption is potentially highly relevant: passengers of tourist buses paying the ZTL access fee (I passeggeri dei bus turistici in regola con il pagamento della Ztl Bus del Comune di Venezia). We await clarification whether this exemption will apply only to passengers on recognised hop-on-hop-off service providers carrying day visitors, or whether it will also apply to private hire vehicles for closed groups.
From a policy and research perspective, the scheme will attract close scrutiny. The reported intention is to maintain access but regulate flow through variable access charging. Academic and other opinions differ as to the impact of local taxes on demand until or unless they become (by definition) prohibitively high. €10 is the current maximum under Italian national law.
Further information will be published on our Italy tourist tax page.
Additional media coverage citing the councillors (assessori) responsible for the new version of the day access charge available here.
Destinations and ETOA
We continue to look for opportunities to engage constructively with destinations. Well over 100 are now members, and typically the relationships work well, to mutual advantage. We support our partner NECSTouR‘s Barcelona Declaration whose vision of better places to live and aligns with ETOA members’ and their clients’ interests. For recent material about ETOA and destinations, click here.
If you have any information about how local operating conditions might change, or know of any related consultation, please continue to inform us at firstname.lastname@example.org