Groups mean business

Date Posted: 06/07/2010

Introducing the ETOA’s Charter for Successful Tourism, we quiz the ETOA’s head of tour operator relations, Nick Greenfield, on its ongoing strategy and potential benefits to groups.

The month of May welcomed the launch of the European Tour Operator Association’s (ETOA) Charter for Successful Tourism, in conjunction with European Cities marketing (ECM) and the International Road Transport Union (IRU).

Setting out a code of best practice for welcoming and managing tourist groups, and covering key points such as coach access, capacity planning, and changes to regulations and prices, the charter was drawn up to address a number of issues that have been the cause of logistic challenges in cities. It is hoped the charter will also encourage greater collaboration between government and the travel industry in marketing and planning.

In this exclusive interview, Group Leisure speaks to the ETOA’s head of tour operator relations, Nick Greenfield, to find out more about the new Charter for Successful Tourism, and its potential benefit to groups and coach parties travelling to European city destinations.

Hi Nick, so why was it so important to establish this charter in the first place?
We wanted to produce a document that would offer guidance, create discussion and highlight both the challenges and opportunities for group tourism in cities across Europe. It’s based on consultation with operators, tourist boards, coach companies and many other stakeholders in group tourism.

How important is the groups industry in sustaining European tourism?
If ETOA has a leitmotif, it is that Europe cannot take for granted its place as the pre-eminent tourist destination in the world. If you look at emerging origin markets such as China, India and Brazil, how Europe works with and welcomes groups from those countries will affect the future of tourism from those countries and how they view Europe as a destination. At the same time mature markets such as the US and Japan remain important. Group tourism comes in many shapes and sizes; special interest groups, performing arts groups, educational tours and social trips all bring tourism revenue into local economies, both from other European countries and further afield. In short, group tourism in all its guises remains a cornerstone of European tourism.

Why do you think it has taken so long to recognise this, and for such a charter to be drawn up?
Past documents have focused on different aspects of group tourism such as coach access or booking practices. We decided to use our central position and bring all these strands together into one charter.

It’s previously been highlighted that groups, “are not always well-regarded or well-treated” due to recurring “misperceptions”. What kind of misperceptions, and how does the charter aim to rectify them?
One of the clearest examples is how, at times, coaches are demonised. I have seen recently photos in the Italian press of two coaches on a bridge in Rome alongside the suggestion they should be banned from the centre altogether, as if they were the main cause of traffic congestion in the city. Yet coaches are one of the most environmentally friendly forms of transport and can bring over 50 people into a city in one vehicle. Points one and two of our charter are entitled ‘Group tourism is valuable business’ and ‘Group tourists should feel welcome’. There are times where the first is taken for granted and the second is overlooked. Treat groups well and you will enjoy the benefits as a city.

What do you hope to achieve by ensuring the implementation of the ten key points highlighted within the charter?
The charter is designed to speak to all stakeholders. It is there to make group tourism work as smoothly as possible in cities, which is in the interests of everybody.

How will you monitor the implementation of these key points on an ongoing basis?
ETOA is currently working on a number of fronts, including guiding, coach access and booking systems. As we state at the end of the charter, ‘we will continue to bring together, support and advise all parties’.

How does the ECM (European Cities Marketing) intend to communicate to the groups market the ongoing changes and improvements, in terms of facilities, accessibility etc, within each European city destination?
We have been working closely with ECM and many tourist boards have expressed interest in the charter, particularly where they feel the need to communicate the importance of group tourism to their own local authorities. Going forward we will work closely with them to pass on any initiatives and recognise where cities have made improvements.

Useful contact:

European Tour Operators Association:

020-7499 4412

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