Tag: London

City Cruises acquired by Hornblower

River boat operator City Cruises has been bought by dining and excursion cruise operator Hornblower, a San Francisco-based dining and excursion cruise operator.

The acquisition, not previously reported on these pages, took place in November 2019 and is the first acquisition by Hornblower outside of North America.

A statement issued by the company said the sale will mean “greater investment opportunities for the City Cruises brand in 2020 and beyond.”

All staff have been retained. The previous owners and founders, Gary and Rita Beckwith OBE, are remaining as consultants for several months to assist with the transition.

City Cruises acquired by Hornblower
City Cruises has been bought by dining and excursion cruise operator
Hornblower UK Holdings, part of the Hornblower Group,
a San Francisco-based dining and excursion cruise operator.

Commenting, Gary Beckwith said: “We believe the sale of City Cruises to the Hornblower family will take the brand to the next level of success. We have been honoured to be at the helm of City Cruises and believe the business we started will further flourish and grow under the new ownership of Hornblower.”

Terry MacRae, CEO of the Hornblower parent in the US, said: “We are incredibly excited to acquire City Cruises which we believe to be the best leisure cruise operator in Europe today. We have long had the ambition to enter the European market and it makes perfect sense to start our journey in one of the most iconic cities in the world.”

City Cruises was founded in 1985 and now comprises operations on the River Thames, plus City Cruises York, City Cruises Poole, ThamesJet and R.S Hispaniola.

Hornblower Group has been operating for 35 years in the US and runs river cruises, harbour cruises, whale watching trips and ferries across North America including iconic trips to Alcatraz in San Francisco, The Statue of Liberty in New York and Niagara Falls in Canada.

In a statement the company said: “This announcement reaffirms our confidence in the marine hospitality sector, strengthened by continued investment to elevate the guest experience. In addition to expanding the company’s portfolio through mergers and acquisitions, over the past five years, Hornblower Cruises & Events has invested $50 million in guest experiences, innovation and technology, while adding new builds to the fleet alongside a programme of innovative fleet enhancements and upgrades in a drive to become even more guest-centric.”

With the completion of this acquisition, Hornblower Cruises & Events now operates a fleet of 157 vessels offering dining cruises, sightseeing, private charter, water taxi and ferry brands in 22 locations in the US, Canada, and now the UK serving 9.8 million guests each year.

Coach and group tourism in London under threat

The Confederation of Passenger Transport UK (CPT) has given a clear message to the Mayor of London that the early implementation of the Euro 6 emission standard in the existing central London Low Emissions Zone (LEZ) in 2019, combined with the introduction of an expanded LEZ in 2020, will seriously impact on coach and group tourism in the capital.

coach and group tourism
It’s probably won’t come to this, but the coach and bus industry is far from happy with the Mayor of London’s plans to introduce stricter vehicle emission standards without giving adequate time for coach and bus operators to replace or retrofit their vehicles

On 8 April 2019, central London changes from being an LEZ and becomes an ULEZ, an Ultra-Low Emissions Zone. This will require the Euro 6 emission standard for coaches and buses. A daily charge of £100 will be levied against any coaches and buses that aren’t compliant.

From 26 October 2020 the existing London-wide (LEZ), an area roughly the area inside the M25, will require coaches and buses to be Euro 6 to avoid daily charges of £300.

The coach and bus industry is concerned that the time scales do not allow time for coach and bus operators with older vehicles to either replace or retrofit engines in order to ensure compliance with the new regulations. Facing this insurmountable challenge, many operators are understood to be considering increasing their prices to allow for the daily charges for non-compliant vehicles. These increases will have to be passed on to the customer. While operators believe that many customers will pay the extra charge, there is concern that overall, passenger numbers may drop, affecting both operators and the London visitor economy.

Commenting on the announcement, Simon Posner, CPT chief executive, says: “CPT has been engaged with transport for London (TfL) and industry partners for many years on a number of air quality and congestion reducing initiatives for London. A delegation of industry representatives, led by CPT, expressed their concerns in a meeting with the Deputy Mayor for Transport, Val Shawcross, who clearly understood the industry’s position and acknowledged that any expansion to the ULEZ would present many operators with an insurmountable problem.

“CPT remains convinced that the expansion of ULEZ, in addition to the early introduction of the scheme in the central area, will have a serious impact on day-to-day coach operations as well as a detrimental impact on London’s tourism economy. While we continue to support the Mayor’s plans to improve London’s air quality, penalising visiting coaches which are part of the solution and not the problem is not the way to go about it.

“Buses and coaches are key to reducing pollution, alleviating congestion and providing quicker journey times in the capital, and it is extremely disappointing that this announcement fails to recognise the role that these important modes have to play. CPT and the coach industry plans to meet with the incoming Deputy Mayor for Transport, Heidi Alexander, in order to help find a workable solution for London, its tourism economy and visiting coaches.”

From 25 October 2021 the ULEZ is due to be extended to cover all of London inside the North and South Circular Roads.

A report commissioned by CPT found that London’s economy benefited around £186m from coach tourism.

Excursions shows “continued growth”

Organisers of Excursions, the one day travel trade show that took place on Saturday 28 January at Alexandra Palace in north London, says the event is showing “continued growth”.

Now in its 41st year, the show is seen by many in the industry as giving an indication of the health of both the industry, and of trade shows in general.

Excursions 2017
Two of the volunteers from Butser Ancient Farm near Petersfield in Hampshire, encouraging tour planners to take a closer look.

Excursions 2017
Flo Wallace and Fiona Errington from Visit Wiltshire.

Organiser, Tourism South East, says this year’s show attracted around 300 exhibitors from the UK, Ireland and continental Europe and welcomed around 1,150 visitors.

Anna Wilson-Barnes, travel trade marketing manager at Tourism South East, says; “Excursions continues to show steady growth. Remarkably, around 48% of visitors say they were attending the show for the first time, keen to discover what exhibitors had to offer and clearly demonstrating that there is still a huge need for conducting business face-to-face, even in a digital age. There was a great buzz about this year’s show with packed aisles, new contacts being made and business conducted at a high level. We were also very pleased to see so many new and younger visitors, changing some of the long held preconceptions about group travel being just for an older market.  We look forward to welcoming everyone back in 2018.”

Excursions 2017
The tourism team from the Black Country Living Museum in the West Midlands were encouraging visitors to take a step back in time.

Excursions 2017
‘One family – two historic attractions’. Berkeley Castle in Gloucestershire, and Spetchley Park Gardens in Worcestershire, are only 45 miles apart along the M5. Highlighting group packages were Helen Berryman (left) from Berkeley Castle and Zoe Cope from Spetchley Park Gardens.

Tourism South East chief executive Nigel Smith says: “We’ve consistently sustained visitor numbers over the years. We’ve achieved this by combining database marketing and traditional advertising with free coach transfers, as well as arranging fam trips and bringing in VIP coaches. All added value ways of getting trade visitors to attend. For the first time, AGTO, the Association of Group Travel Organisers, also held its AGM at the show.”

Excursions 2017
All aboard for Greatdays Travel Group’s new ‘Cruise the World’ musical lunch packages for groups were Claire Buckley and Libby Talbot.

Excursions 2017
Lisa Weaver, groups co-ordinator at Woburn Abbey and Gardens, with Roger and Pauline Bull from RB Travel and Taurus Holidays.

The show is organised by Tourism South East in partnership with London & Partners and Group Leisure magazine.

Excursions 2018 will take place on Saturday 27 January.

For more information, go to www.excursionsshow.com, follow @excursionsshow or visit the show’s Facebook page at ‘Excursions: Group Travel Trade Exhibition’.

Excursions 2017
Representing Merlin Entertainments were (left to right) Suzie Gildon, Brittany Salas and Joanne Channon.

Excursions 2017
Olivia Horner from The Historic Dockyard Chatham, the home of ‘Call The Midwife’

Excursions 2017
Offering guidance on how to choose a quality coach operator was Simon Smith of CoachMarque, the coach industry’s quality kite mark.

To see these photos at a higher resolution, go to www.facebook.com/stuartrendertourism

London tourist coach forum focuses on coach access

The third London Tourist Coach Forum, an annual event organised as a result of the launch of the London Tourist Coach Action Plan in 2014, took place in the capital last month.

The event, held at the Prince of Wales Theatre in the West End on 18 November, was organised by the London Tourist Coach Action Board and chaired by the Confederation of Passenger Transport UK (CPT).

It was attended by local councils, industry stakeholders, coach operators, tourism organisations and London businesses.

Stephen Smith, CPT’s Operations Director, opened the Forum by speaking about the recently published CPT-commissioned Steer Davies Gleave report into the economic benefit of coaches to London’s tourism economy. He said that in 2015, 12 million domestic tourists arrived in London by coach, plus one million international tourists. Each year 21,500 tourist coaches visit central London and there are 235,000 tourist coach movements in central London. He reminded delegates that the consultation on the Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) closes on 18 December, and operators are urged to respond to it, even if they’re not based in London.

Ben Plowden, Director of Surface Transport Strategy and Planning at Transport for London, explained how coach tourism was a key part of the Mayor’s strategy of ‘A City for all Londoners’. Ben outlined that the Mayor’s focus is very much on social media and how these platforms can assist coach operators in planning their journeys and accessing coach parking facilities.
He told delegates that the new Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, has placed air quality at the top of his agenda. Full details are in the document ‘A City for all Londoners’, which he urged people to read, and respond to the consultation, which closes on 11 December. Ben said that in terms of air quality, the new Mayor “wants to go further and faster than Boris Johnson did”.

Delegates heard about other measures being introduced by TfL, including:
– significant improvement in the flow of information about the roads network, so coach drivers can plan their trips.
– working with the CPT to inform its Twitter feed, and having a monthly column in trade magazine routeONE which is used to provide other information.
– an ongoing, and successful trial of mixed-use kerbside bays that allows coaches to drop-off and pick-up passengers at Park Lane/Cumberland Gate, Vauxhall Bridge Road and Commercial Street.
– plans to extend some current 20-minute bays to 60-minutes so that coach drivers can take their legal rest breaks.
– ongoing updates to the online version of the London coach parking map

TfL works together on all of this with Camden and Westminster councils (covering the tourist heart of the city), alongside the London Councils umbrella body; the London Tourist Coach Operators Association (LTCOA), European Tourism Association (ETOA), CPT; plus London & Partners (the capital’s official promotional company) and Society of London Theatre, representing the capital’s 67 theatres.

Cllr Heather Acton, Cabinet Member for Sustainability and Parking with Westminster City Council explained that the council’s coach provision is 68 daytime bays, using pay-by-phone, plus 16 20-minute short-term bays (free of charge) and eight overnight bays in Bullied Way. She said that around 3,000 coaches a day enter the borough, and there are 36 uses of kerbside space, from taxis, to deliveries and cycles, which means that there’s high competition for this limited resource. She told delegates that the opening of the Kingsway parking bays had been a success and, subject to TfL approval, they’ll be extended to operate from 10am to 11.59pm.

One of the biggest issues remains Buckingham Gate, due to its proximity to Buckingham Palace and the attraction of the Changing of the Guard, which, she said, creates congestion, noise and air quality issues with its use by coaches. She recognised that the ‘cat and mouse’ game of ‘circling’ to try to find drop-off points and parking increases coach movements and has air quality issues. To combat this, parking technology using the ParkRight app works with sensors to show where a free bay is, and then routes the driver to it. She said that it is hoped, subject to funding, to extend this to all coach bays in the future.

Nick Greenfield, Head of Tour Operator Relations with ETOA, and representing 200 tour operators and 650 suppliers from around the world, explained what ‘coaching heaven’ (Amsterdam) looks like, compared with coaching ‘hell’ (Italy). He took the opportunity to share some ideas of best, and worst, practice.

The vital importance of tourism to the London economy was set out in considerable detail by the London & Partners Acting CEO Andrew Cooke. He told delegates that the organisation’s strategy is economically-based, focused on ‘good growth, and tourism can help this. He said this is based on attracting visitors who spend the most, rather than those who spend little.

Against a background of three years reduced tourism since 2012, he explained that in 2015 there were 18.6m overseas visits to London, a 7% increase. With an average spend of £640 per visitor, they generated £11.9bn (up 1%).

While the US just edged ahead of France in 2015 as the biggest source of visitors (2.14m, compared with 2.07m for France), short-haul European market generates the most traffic.

But the most valuable market for London, by spend, is the USA, whose visitors spent £1.81bn – more than double the next closest, France at £0.76bn. But all this pales compared with the £8.1bn spent by the domestic market.

The Forum concluded with a lively question and answer session where the subjects included coach parking, congestion, engine idling and coaches being considered as part of key tourist location planning decisions. There was general consensus throughout the room that all parties must continue working together through the London TCAP in order to achieve these objectives.


CPT launches London coach study

Bus and coach industry trade magazine routeONE is reporting (23 August) that the Confederation of Passenger Transport UK (CPT) has commissioned a London coach study, focusing on “the major areas where coaches have a pivotal function such as tourism, commuter services, scheduled express services and home-to-school”.

CPT says: “Recognising the importance of London as a destination and the significant part coaches play in supporting the capital’s economy, CPT has commissioned a study of the London coach tourism sector as an integral part of London’s transport network. Against a background of the ever greater challenges to improve the environment and keep London moving, the aim is to provide a definitive picture of the contribution the industry can make towards these goals and demonstrate the positive aspects which, on occasions, have been overlooked.”

The findings are expected to be published in the autumn.

Details have yet to be announced explaining how this new study links in with the London Tourist Coach Action Plan, the joint initiative introduced in 2014 between Transport for London and CPT that aims to find solutions to the challenges faced by coach operators working in the Capital.

London coach tourism
A new study is to look at coach tourism in London

CPT starts London coach parking trial

The Confederation of Passenger Transport UK (CPT) has teamed up with bus operator Go-Ahead to provide an extra 1,000 coach parking spaces in central London this spring.

Starting on Monday 16 May, 30 coach parking spaces will be available to CPT members each day at Go-Ahead’s Camberwell (20) and Stockwell (10) bus depots for a six-week trial period (ends Friday 24 June).

The coach parking facilities will be open from 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday and charged at £35 per day (plus an administration charge of £1.50 plus VAT).

Speaking about the trial, CPT’s chief executive, Simon Posner says: “I’m delighted that we’ve reached an agreement with Go-Ahead to provide CPT members with an extra 30 coach parking spaces each day in London at a time when other facilities are either being removed or having restrictions placed on them.

“Coach parking and the picking-up and setting-down of passengers has long been a contentious issue for operators visiting the Capital, and I hope this announcement goes some way to addressing their concerns while also ensuring that coaches can continue to operate in this great city.

“I am confident that a successful six-week trial will be the catalyst for further initiatives and we will certainly be looking to make the arrangement with Go-Ahead at Camberwell and Stockwell a permanent one.

“I hope that CPT members will take advantage of the coach parking spaces on offer and I look forward to receiving their feedback on both the facility provided and the payment and booking system.”

Bookings can be made by calling a dedicated credit card hotline on 020 7257 2507 (open from 10am to 4pm on Monday to Friday), or by emailing parkmycoach@cpt-uk.org. All bookings and payments must be made in advance.