City tourism: Operators Update

December 2018




The Withdrawal Agreement of the UK leaving the EU was approved by EU Leaders on 25 November. However, this is subject to approval by the UK Parliament with a vote taking place on 11 December. A 56 page document explaining the 585 page Withdrawal Agreement has been published by the UK Government here.

Until such time as the Withdrawal Agreement has been approved by both the UK and EU, prudent risk assessment requires consideration of the possible implications ‘No Deal’. Earlier this month, the EU published their guidance for travel between the UK and EU in the event of a ‘No Deal’ along with a contingency action plan dated 13 November 2018. Members are advised to review both documents. For example, on page 9 of the contingency action plan, the Commission’s stated intention is to allow UK air carriers to fly to the EU on the condition that the arrangement is reciprocated.

Visa Policy

The European Parliament committees will vote on amendments to the Commission’s proposed visa code on Monday 3rd December. ETOA, together with its partners in NET, has been very active in pressing for more streamlined processes. We have been involved in discussion at the Commission on more digitalisation and will shortly publish a report illustrating wider impact of visa policy.

Working Groups

November has been a busy month with four ETOA working groups held in Paris, Barcelona, Amsterdam and London (focused on general group tourism in Europe). We would like to take this opportunity to thank all participants for their time and contribution. The knowledge and insight we gain during these meetings are invaluable to ensure ETOA’s priorities match members’ interests. If you are interested in our working groups, please contact




There are currently rumours that the Spanish Minister of Culture, José Guirao, is considering to prohibit reselling of tickets to attractions without adding extra value, e.g. package the ticket with something else. We are following this case closely as a prohibition may have a considerable impact on capacity management, distribution and ticketing of major attractions in Spain, such as Alhambra and Sagrada Familia.

Sagrada Familia is increasing their group ticket rate from €15 to €18 pp from January 2019. Please find details about all ticket types and prices here.

The Sant Felip Neri square, Gothic Quarter, Barcelona has since 2017 been closed for all visitors between 10.30 to 11.30 on weekdays as students from Sant Felip Neri school use the square during this time. From 3rd December 2018, the square will also be closed from 13:30 to 15:00 on weekdays. The closure is due to safety reasons.

Madrid – On 30 November 2018 the four current access restriction zones in the city centre (Areas de Prioridad Residencial) will be extended to create 1 large zone, covering the entire downtown area in Central Madrid. The zone will be fully effective from February 2019. Only residents and zero emissions vehicles will be allowed to enter without authorisation required. Diesel coaches (including Euro 6) will have to apply for authorisation to enter to set down and pick up passengers, which is free here. Failure to have authorisation will result in a €90 fine. For further information on the scheme please click here.


The next ‘Paris car free day’ for the entire day when all of Paris is closed off will be on 21st September 2019. Our current understanding is that some sightseeing buses are allowed to operate during the car free days. Some organise private transfers so TOs can use their services.

From July 2019 all diesel cars registered before 2006 will be banned in Paris as well as diesel coaches registered before 01 October 2009. All vehicles need to at least have a Crit’Air Sticker 3!. Further information can be found here.

The Louvre will not increase their prices at the beginning of 2019 but perhaps from July onwards. We are seeking clarification. They will no longer be offering free entry on the 1st Sunday of each month to everyone, but it will be offered on the Saturday evening for the late night opening only.

The Eiffel Tower still only has one lift working and this will be the case for early next year as well. Groups are obliged to queue up in the public line which can take from 1 – 2 hours to receive the tickets. Our understanding is that if one enters on the Quai Branly side and not the Bir Hakeim side there is a chance that the queue is shorter. The Eiffel Tower have published their new prices for 2019.

Renovations works at Centre Pompidou will start from sometime during spring 2019 and not at the beginning of the year as originally planned.

Montparnasse Tower will be closing in 2020, but we do not know when exactly. It will be closed for 3 and a half years. Grand Palais will be closing in December 2020 until 2024 in time for the Olympic Games.

The Grévin Museum will close from 7th January to 8th February 2019.

Taxi security in Paris: Gare du Nord and CDG airport have improved in terms of security and the non-licensed taxis. However, at Orly airport there is still a problem regarding the non-licensed taxis who charge clients a much higher tariff than the official published prices. The police are working with airport authorities on this.


Rome’s coach access plan for 2019 is still planned to go ahead from 1st January. The next court hearing at the Consiglio di Stato (supreme court) will be held on 13th December 2019. ETOA has published a statement in both Italian and English to suspend the coach plan pending either a) evidence of sufficient benefit is provided to outweigh the harm their introduction would cause or b) that a more effective solution is developed with demonstrable long-term benefits, environmental and otherwise, for all stakeholders. We will shortly publish a further statement about the value and volume of group business in Rome. We are in direct contact with Rome council and are having meetings with them. We will keep ETOA members updated on any news. Details of the plan should be published here in December. The most detailed document about the plan can be found here (in Italian only). If you have any questions or comments, please contact our new Country Representative for Italy, Tinì Gattazzo or Sofie Jensen.

The Uffizi Gallery in Florence now limit the size of any group to maximum 25 people. Furthermore, we have been notified that they have added an extra fee of €70 per group for groups over 15 pax. We are seeking clarification on this.

Tour guiding – There are worrying signs that a more protectionist policy regarding guiding is likely to be re-introduced in some regions in Italy, despite jurisprudence supporting the value of a qualification from one region for use in other regions; similarly, the right of 3rd country citizens who are either qualified or have practised as a guide in their home EU country to provide services in Italy on a ‘temporary and occasional basis’ if they have made a ‘prior declaration.’ We are conducting a review in collaboration with our legal adviser in Rome and will provide updates accordingly.


Our current understanding is that Amsterdam is increasing their overnight tax to 7% across the city from January 2019. Up until now, the overnight tax rate has been based on the geographical location of the accommodation provider; 6% in the City Center, West, South and East (with the exception of IJburg, Zeeburgereiland and camping Zeeburg); and 4% in other districts/areas). Furthermore, the city council is considering introducing an €8 tourist tax for cruise ship passengers. More information about overnight and tourist tax can be found here (in Dutch). We are seeking clarification.

Czech Republic

In our September update, we mentioned the possibility that Czech Republic is seeking to re-regulate guiding. After seeking information from local stakeholders, our current understanding is that the Bill still needs to be presented for the Parliament and that this has been delayed several times – seeming not to be a priority. If the Bill is passed, it will include an implementation period of one year. This would be the first time an EU state would re-regulate guiding; a worrying development for those who support free markets for services. ETOA will keep a close eye on any developments.

Republic of Ireland

As reported in last month’s Operators Update, the Irish Government (Rialtas na h’Eireann) has announced that VAT will increase from 9% to 13.5% on 1 January 2019 for the tourism industry, such as hotels and restaurants. Member Grant Thornton have confirmed that the 9% rate will still apply if the product is paid to the supplier before 1 January 2019, even if consumed after 1 January 2019. Further taxation advice is available from Grant Thornton. Please contact Simon for details.

The reduction to 9% was temporary to boost the economy post the financial crisis a decade ago. ETOA have written to the Irish Tourism Minister calling for the increase to be suspended to allow a manageable transition to take place; as two and a half months notice is insufficient for operators and suppliers to plan accordingly.




• 7th November: ETOA attended the European Tourism Day at the European Commission – this included the announcement of winners of European Capital of Smart Tourism. The 2019 winners were Helsinki and Lyon. More information on this initiative here.
• 8th November: ETOA attended the ‘International Travel Crisis Management Summit’. – Speakers from Governments, Tourist Boards and Industry Stakeholders discussed the tourism industry’s response to safety and security concerns throughout the world following major events.
• 14th November: OECD workshop, Paris – This focused on investment priorities within national tourism strategies.
• 22nd November: ETC conference, Antwerp – Celebrating ETC’s 70th birthday, representatives of national tourism organisations met to discuss the industry’s future. Notably, ETC’s policy is shifting away from volume-based metrics for tourism’s success in Europe. This echoes a wider trend among destinations who are prioritising value over growth.
• 26th November: ETOA Destination Seminar Barcelona – Together with Barcelona City Council (Ajuntament de Barcelona), ETOA held a seminar discussing the future Tourism Strategy of Barcelona. More than 25 public and private organisations from the tourism industry in Barcelona got together to discuss how Barcelona can become a sustainable place to both live in and visit. Upcoming
• 6th and 7th December: OECD Conference on Culture and Local Development (Venice) – This will be an opportunity to explore how tourism can be better integrated with local policy and a catalyst for product development away from the most famous sites. More information here.

More information about ETOA events is available at

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