The European Tour Operators Association sent an open letter to the Barcelona City Council (Ajuntament de Barcelona), shared here:
We, the European Tour Operators Association (ETOA), along with the International Road Transport Union (IRU), FECAV and ASTIC express our support for the foundation of a working group to look at the question of tour coaches in Barcelona, as laid out in a manifesto undersigned by ACAV, APIT, AUDICA, and UCAVE. As such an initiative was promised by the City Council, and given that plans for coach restrictions are now being proposed by the authorities without such a group having convened, we feel that it is imperative that proper consultation take place.
The initial proposals regard access to the Sagrada Familia, but recent debates at the City Hall show that a wider plan is being sought for the city. As the above manifesto rightly underlines, Barcelona is a leading city in the world of tourism. The revenue and, particularly in the current climate, the employment that the tourist sector provides, is fundamental to the city’s economy. But this investment is fragile. And any extra burden, be it financial or structural, cannot be placed upon it lightly. Equally, when framing policy, it is logical that the professionals working within that sector should be involved every step of the way.
Coach tourism is far too often presented as a problem rather than a solution; an image projected by local media and politicians and ultimately accepted by local populations. There is a tendency to single it out as the main cause of congestion, ignoring the fact that it is a green and efficient mode of travel. It complements public transport and offers a neat way of handling millions of visitors, especially in a densely-populated city such as Barcelona. Where there are challenges, such as at the Sagrada Familia, these should be faced. But, as our Group Tourism Charter states, consultation leads to more effective and creative solutions.
Some cities have shown themselves to be enlightened when developing and improving their tourism infrastructure; others not. We very much hope that Barcelona falls into the former category and we look forward to engaging with policy makers and other stakeholders to ensure that the city continues to thrive as a destination.