City tourism: Operators Update

December 2019

Some of the main topics of this month’s newsletter are the upcoming strike in France, Amsterdam guiding plans, and updates on tax, TOMS and ETIAS.From the next newsletter (to be sent on 18 December), we will change the name to Destination and Policy Update. The name change is to reflect how these updates are not only intended to inform our Tour Operator members, but includes important operational and policy information, which most of our members may find useful. If you think a colleague will find the newsletter interesting, they can sign up via below link:


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If you would like to know more about ETOA’s policy activity and external engagement on members’ behalf, please have a look at our Policy activity page.

IMPORTANT CLARIFICATION: In our Interim Operators Update sent out on 8 November we mentioned that the VMR tax in Amsterdam will be applicable for guided walking tours from 1 January 2021. We now understand that this will apply from 1 January 2020 and are awaiting official confirmation in the Municipal Gazette. Please note it is possible VMR will apply to the separate components of a tour e.g. for a guided walking tour and canal cruise this would be €1.50 x 2 = €3 per person.

From 1 January 2020: VMR will apply to canal cruises, sightseeing city tours (by bus, bike, segway) and guided walking tours. From 1 January 2021 VMR is to be extended to paid events and festivals within the city. The Gemeente has published information here. There is ambiguity as to what is included within scope of VMR, in particular the definition of a city tour and we are seeking urgent clarification. There are legal and practical objections to Amsterdam’s current tax policy and tourism regulation which we and others are raising with the city.


Tax Tour Operators Margin Scheme (TOMS): The European Commission is about to publish a new consultation on how the current system might evolve. The latest technical document summarising developments to date, current position and scope of review is available here. We expect a new roadmap in due course. Further information will be published on our website.

France: Article 51 of the proposed national budget for 2020 imposes a €10 tax on short-term contracts (CDD – contrat à durée determinée). ETOA is working urgently to discover exactly how this might apply to operators contracting local guide services, for example, and whether the tax would apply to each individual service or could apply to a single CDD contract under which a range of services were provided. The proposed legislation has passed the National Assembly and is now with the Senate. Further information will be published on our website as soon as we have it. We are also in contact with a domestic trade association, Les Enterprises du Voyage, whose legal team shares our concerns.

Scotland: The national government’s consultation on the principles of a local discretionary transient visitor levy or tourist tax closes at midnight on Monday 2 December. The national government is intending to introduce legislation in 2020 to allow local authorities the power to do so, should they wish. Further information can be found on our UK tax page.

Turkey: The National Assembly has approved to implement an accommodation tax (konaklama vergisi), a form of tourist tax on 1 April 2020. Until 31 December 2020 the tax will be 1% net cost of stay and 2% from January 2021. Further information can be found on our Turkey tax page.



A country-wide ‘unlimited’ rail transportation strike from 5 December 2019 has been announced by several unions. It will potentially continue until Christmas. We will update our Paris page and France page with more information and links to important information sources.

Paris – ETOA working group: In November ETOA held a working group meeting with local members in Paris and guests from Ville de Paris. Main topics discussed include:

  • As Paris’ plan is to become more pedestrian friendly, this will undoubtedly lead to further reduction on coach parking etc. We are working with Ville de Paris to obtain and share info early, and feed into consultation when opportunity arises.
  • The need for better tourism information in different languages. Ville de Paris is working on an upgraded website for the Pass Autocar to ensure information is clear and navigation is easy.
  • Future plans for non-paper tickets are well advanced, but no solution yet for group tickets from 2023 when the paper tickets will no longer be used. This will cause operational issues, especially if the idea is to limit coach access.
  • Top attractions, especially Eiffel Tower and Louvre appear less and less interested in groups business, e.g. groups allocations now predominantly available between 12h and 14h. We continue to seek dialogue to get more concrete info about future plans.

Paris – Louvre: Refurbishments have finished and the portrait of Mona Lisa has been moved back from The Medici Gallery to its usual position in Salle des Etats. Read more about Louvre here.

Paris – Car free day 2020: Provisional date for 2020 is 20 September (subject to confirmation). Details here.



Free entrance days to Italian museums 2020: It has been announced by Beniculturali (current ministry of tourism) that all museums and monuments managed by them will be free to visit on the first Sunday of each month. The current information is ambiguous as some official pages mention the first Sunday of every month, while other pages confirm that this is only applicable January-March and October-December, from our conversations with Beniculturali the latter seems more likely. When we have more information, we will publish on our Italy page.

Rome – ETOA working group: In November ETOA held a working group meeting with local members in Rome. Main topics discussed include challenges around management and ticketing at top attractions, the coach plan and Rome’s tourism strategy.

Rome – coach planRome Coach plan is still complicated and frustrating for both local and international members. Our understanding is that some international operators are avoiding the online complicated permit system which forces them to book drop off slots on the spot when most ‘important’ slots are taken. Furthermore, the new ticket system proves difficult as the strict timeline forces drivers to break driving hours rules.

In agreement with the Comune di Roma we are collecting information and feedback about how the coach plan implemented in 2019 has affected our members. If you would like to share your feedback for us to present it to the Comune, please submit your details via below link and we will contact you.

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Rome – Colosseum free entrance days 2020: As mentioned above, entrance to Colosseum will be free of charge on first Sunday of each month, but only in the months of January-March and October-December 2020 plus a set of additional dates. Pre-booking is not possible. More information here.

Rome – Vatican museum group numbers: Due to objections from the industry, the Vatican museum has decided to change its maximum number of visitors per group to 42 (from the initial change to 37 announced in September). The 20% flexibility still applies, but only up until 50 pax. You can read more about this on our Rome page.

Rome – tourism strategy: ETOA attended a presentation of the findings from Futouroma 2019-2025 round table discussions. Click here for more information and for links to presentations.

Venice – acqua alta: High tide and strong winds resulted in the second highest recorded flooding in Venice on 12 November. This resulted in most of the streets in Venice being under water with restaurants, hotels and monuments closing temporarily. Restoration work is underway and almost all museums, attractions and institutions are open again. We are in close contact with the city to ensure members receive the latest updates on the situation and have compiled practical information on our Venice page.

Venice – Gondola weight limit: We have been made aware that a gondolier has advised a tour guide that the maximum capacity for gondolas, incl. the gondolier is 600 KG. This has not been confirmed by our contacts in the city and it seems to be an isolated incident. If you hear about similar situations, please contact



Amsterdam – guiding: On 13 November the Gemeente (city hall) published an amended draft plan for guiding in the city centre set to commence 1 April 2020, if confirmed. There are various changes compared to current regulation and the initial proposed plan. Consultation will end on 15 December 2019 and the decision is planned to be made in March 2020. Read more about the updated draft plan and how to get involved in the consultation on our Amsterdam page.


St Petersburg – e-visa: From 1 October 2019 it has been possible for citizens from 53 foreign states to apply for a free eight-day e-visa to St Petersburg without an invitation, issued within four days.



Barcelona – ETOA working group: The second Barcelona working group meeting of 2019 was held at CREC Coworking Eixample. Participants contributed towards a lively discussion on issues including media coverage of recent events in Barcelona and impact on bookings, sustainability strategies and transparency with regards to tourism taxes and how they are allocated by government. If you would like to hear more, please contact Jo Cadier.

Barcelona – demonstrations: There is no longer any disruption to the Plaça Universitat area in the city as the student protest camp has been closed down. Following earlier disruption to roads and motorways earlier on this month there have been no further incidents. We will update our website if the situation changes.

Granada – Alhambra: 2019 political developments at a regional level mean that management structure and strategy are harder to follow than usual. We have initiated contact at a regional level in order that we are well-placed to re-engage as and the situation clarifies and will continue to monitor the situation.

We have been made aware of a document issued by Andalusia in 2018 in response to Alhambra-related complaints. We are currently reviewing the document and will update members in due course. The document can be found via a link on our Spain page. If you have any comments or questions regarding Alhambra, please contact Jorge Traver.

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