The European Tourism Association (ETOA) has harshly criticised plans by Rome’s tourism authorities to reduce coach access to the city centre by 65%, saying it will inflict a ‘body blow’ to the group leisure tourism sector.
Currently, according to research by Sapienza University, an average of 85 coaches enter the city’s zone C each day. Under the new plans, this would be reduced to 30 a day.
According to the ETOA, its own members contribute to 1.8m overnight stays in Rome annually.
Additionally, it found that 43% of tour operators considered that there was no practical alternative to coach transport into the central zone.
The organisation has called for a suspension of the plans, “until either clear evidence is provided to show they would be beneficial or until there are more effective solutions developed which will have demonstrable long-term benefits for the local community, businesses and visitors.”
Mario Bodini, Chairman of ETOA said: “Group tourism includes high-value business from developed markets worldwide.
“If Rome becomes operationally problematic, its status as a gateway to the rest of Italy for long haul tourism is in jeopardy.
Unless the first-time visit to a destination is a success, travellers will hesitate before booking a second trip to Italy.
“We have already received reports that some operators are moving volume away from Rome for 2020 and cancelling included elements of their remaining programmes.
We urge Rome not to implement the new coach access plan until a better solution is found.
Enrico Fraticelli, owner and CEO of Rome-based transport firm SIT, added: “At least 60% of our clients transport their guests into the centre of Rome and we work closely with hotels and restaurants in zone C.
Their businesses will be substantially impacted too. There has to be a better way forward.”