Action by ‘honeypot’ destinations to reduce their visitor numbers was dismissed by the European Tourism Association chief at the Coach Tourism Association’s recent 2019 conference in Cambridge.

ETOA CEO Tom Jenkins (pictured here) told delegates: “Cities are meant to be crowded, and having lots of visitors is a sign of their success. Over-tourism is a phenomenon which only affects 10% of destinations, in about 10% of their city space, and only for 10% of the time. So it is a highly localised issue.” He added that destinations should talk to tour operators, tell them and the wider public when they expect crowds, and spread demand away from peak times. Turning to the question of whether mass tourism is bad for the environment he gave the example of Rome where newly introduced legislation had effectively banned coach movements in the centre of the city to reduce pollution and congestion. “Now people have moved from buses into cars. This process creates more pollution and congestion than a smaller number of coaches – and yet this is still the iconic piece of legislation introduced by the Mayor of the city,” he added.

The issue of coaches being treated unfairly was also picked up during the conference’s panel discussion where it was pointed out that the coach industry had been targeted by the new ULEZ rules because it was “more visible” than other forms of transport such as taxis and thus was “an easy target”. The expert panel consisted of Dave Parry, Director of Parrys International Tours; Jason Edwards, Director of Edwards Coaches; Robert Shaw, Director of Harry Shaw; and Andy Warrender, Coaching Manager of the Confederation of Passenger Transport. Curated by CTA Chair John Wales, the session covered a wide range of issues for members from low emission zones in many areas of the country, through to BREXIT.

Despite the problems for coach tour operators caused by low emission zones John Wales told members that there was a positive story tell about the way in which the industry had reacted to the new rules by investing in new equipment and the extent to which one coach was a much more green option for bring visitors into a city than the equivalent number of cars.

Looking at the way operators should react to the zones, Robert Shaw recommended that members check out the way in which individual local authorities were planning to introduce low emission regulations as these varied considerably. Andy Warrender pointed out to members that if they were fined £100 for entering the London ULEZ zone after April 8th 2019, that was a daily fine and would not change however many trips were made into the zone during that day.

One of the conference’s most well attended events is always the B2B ‘speed dating’ workshop. This year some 650 appointments were set up where suppliers who welcome coaches did serious volume business with the coach tour operator professionals. During the conference delegates were introduced to the CTA’s newly appointed Communication Director, Helen Bowron who, in turn, welcomed a number of new members who had signed up to take part in the workshop and be included in the 2019 handbook.

There was also a presentation from Emma Thomson from Visit Cambridge and Beyond, and a session from Justine Perry of Cariad Marketing giving delegates detailed tips on how to use using social media effectively. The afternoon conference was given a light hearted ending by Ashley Herman who, with John Wales was the joint founder of Encore Tickets about his early days in the theatre. And in a heart-felt gesture over £3,000 was raised in a raffle and auction for Peterborough City Hospital Oncology Ward in memory of former CTA chief executive Chris Wales.

PHOTO: European Tour Operators Association CEO Tom Jenkins tells delegates that: “Overtourism really is a microcosm in the global picture”.