The 2019 CTA Conference & Workshop, hosted by Hallmark Cambridge, included a lively ‘Question Time’ panel on Low Emission Zones, presentations on Brexit, ‘Overtourism’ and Social Media, and the ever-popular Workshop which comprised more than 650 individual appointments between operator and supplier members.
Around 150 delegates gathered in Cambridge for the two-day event which combined business and pleasure, including an afternoon Classic Cambridge Walking Tour, kindly delivered by Visit Cambridge.
The concept of ‘Overtourism’ was addressed by European Tourism Association CEO Tom Jenkins who told delegates: “Cities are meant to be crowded and having lots of visitors is a sign of their success. Overtourism is a phenomenon which only affects 10 per cent of destinations, in about 10 per cent of their city space, and only for 10 per cent of the time. So it is a highly localised issue.”
Jenkins 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,” adds Jenkins.
The thorny issue of Brexit was also covered by Jenkins who outlined the perspectives that he has witnessed from his regular contacts in Europe. Jenkins accepted that he was aiming essentially at a moving target with continuing uncertainty about whether a withdrawal deal will eventually be agreed, and he pointed out that even if it is, this will not be the end of uncertainty because everything then moves on to negotiating a long term agreement.
He highlighted some specific impacts of the UK leaving the customs union, including the fact that the Tour Operator Margin Scheme would no longer be possible for UK-based operators with no transport scheme relief, and there could be a requirement to submit multiple VAT returns for each country visited.
The issue of coaches being singled out for unfair attention was highlighted 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 CTA members Dave Parry, Parrys International Tours; Jason Edwards, Edwards Coaches; Robert Shaw, Harry Shaw City Cruiser Holidays; alongside Andy Warrender, coaching manager at the Confederation of Passenger Transport.
CTA chair John Wales presented the session with delegates putting questions to the panel on a wide range of issues 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 insisted there is a positive story to tell about the way in which the industry is reacting to the new rules by investing in new equipment and the extent to which one coach was a much greener option for bringing visitors into a city than the equivalent number of cars.
Looking at the way operators should respond to the implementation of LEZs, 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 8 April 2019, that was a daily fine and would not change however many trips were made into the zone during that day.
The importance of social media channels is now widely accepted and the Conference also included a timely presentation from Justine Perry of Cariad Marketing who offered delegates detailed tips on how to use social media effectively.
Perry emphasised the importance of making the most of the interaction with customers that is possible with social media channels such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. She pointed to the need to provide regular posts and engage effectively by focusing on the audience, not on yourselves. “Be useful, be helpful, be interesting and be compelling,” advised Perry.
Like other aspects of a business, social media channels should have clear budgets and KPIs set by the business, according to Perry, and the analytics data provided by each of the channels should be fully utilised to find out how well your activity is working.
Perry provided tips on a number of tools that are available to help manage social media workflow, some of them free to use. One specific tool that she believed many people overlook is Google My Business, which she says all companies should utilise. “If there is one thing you should definitely do, then claim your GMB account, ensure all company details and the map listing is correct, add your opening times and link to your website with information on events and products,” says Perry.
The local attractions in Cambridge were also featured in the Conference sessions with a welcome from Visit Cambridge and Beyond CEO Emma Thornton, who pointed out the resources that the organisation provides to coach groups including guides and dedicated walking tours and punting as well as new treasure hunt tours.
Completing the Conference session line-up was Ashley Herman, joint founder of Encore who regailed his audience with tales from behind the curtains from his career in and around the theatre.
The full presentations from the Conference are available to download below.