Tour coaches are highly visible vehicles and appear to deliver a lot of guests to individual visitor attractions at any one point in time. Often forgotten by city planners and tourism managers is the fact that coach holidaymakers tend to travel in off- and shoulder-season periods in environmentally-friendly transportation – e.g. 40 passengers in one vehicle as opposed to 40 persons in 20 private cars.
Last year, news filtered through the grapevine and travel trade press that the municipality of Munich was no longer actively promoting coach holiday tourism to its popular city destination, hedging future bets instead on high-end leisure travel and MICE business events (meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions). Popular Danube / Inn river-cruise destination Passau on the Bavarian / Austrian border has also announced that it is blocking access for tour coaches to its old city or “Altstadt” area due to road traffic safety concerns.
Other cities, such as Florence and Rome, are actively discouraging coach holiday groups visiting their historic city centres by charging high entrance fees and endorsing expensive out-of-town coach parking policies - a concern frequently highlighted and continually addressed by the RDA International Coach Tourism Federation together with its European Alliance for Coach Tourism ally, CONFARTIGIANATO Trasporti.
The Dutch city of Amsterdam has a policy of seeking high-end visitors or so-called “quality travellers” who tend to take in the city’s attractions, spending more money and staying longer - with a focus on culture, quality, and luxury. While this may not be a cure for Amsterdam's current over-tourism experience, it is viewed by the Netherlands Board of Tourism and Conventions (NBTC) as a future way to expand the city’s image. Fewer tourists spending more money equals a happier city is the general expectation. Selling-upmarket as a solution may, however, be deemed quite discriminatory to traditional and mostly retired and elderly coach holiday guests, often pricing them out of / or blocking their easy accessibility to popular city destinations.
Tour coach access to Amsterdam is restricted and coach operators are advised to plan ahead for coach parking and passenger drop-off and collection points, for which there are authorised spots around the city. Only “destination traffic” is permitted in the city centre itself. This refers to coaches that let passengers embark or alight at a coach stop in areas of Amsterdam city centre where coaches are not allowed to drive. Through traffic is no longer allowed in these areas.
Coaches must also follow certain routes (see the ´Coaches and tour buses’ map on the City of Amsterdam website - https://www.amsterdam.nl/en/traffic-transport/coaches-tour-buses . Coaches heavier than 7.5 tons must follow specified routes for 7.5-ton-vehicles. These are also marked on the above map).
Group travel wholesalers and European coach tourism associations should – particularly in their tour-planning - be aware of - and take over-tourism apprehensions seriously – whether in Barcelona, Cornwall, Venice or even the Cliffs of Moher on the Wild Atlantic Way in the West of Ireland. While these concerns may not do justice to the social and economic contributions of the coach travel sector as a whole, they are passionately held. They will have to be clearly addressed and publicly dissuaded by our industry federations.
Photo credit: © I amsterdam