UKinbound has written to London’s mayor, warning that some of its members could see operating licence fees soar by 10,000% under new transport requirements and plans, writes Angie Cronin.
The inbound tourism body is asking for a new categorisation of private hire drivers that recognises the difference between mini-cabs and driver guides/chauffeurs.
UKinbound claims that new requirements from Transport for London for transport providers working in the capital will have an unfair impact on private hire operators, vehicles and drivers who provide a vital service for international tourists.
In its letter to Sadiq Kahn, UKinbound highlighted its concerns about increasing costs for guides and chauffeurs following the removal of their exemption from the congestion charge; the introduction of geographical licences that mean drivers are only allowed to work in certain areas; and new requirements that businesses must have manned phone lines at a fixed address for the whole time any driver is on a job.
UKinbound chairman Mark McVay said: “UKinbound of course supports the Mayor’s plan to make London a healthier and more pleasant environment for all. However, some of the new transport requirements and proposals will have an adverse impact on the tourism industry when we should be ensuring that we make the experience for our international visitors as easy as possible.
“One of our smaller tour operator members informed us that their operating licence fees alone will increase by 10,000% under the proposals. We are therefore urging the mayor to review the new requirements and put in place exemptions for driver guides/chauffeurs…a measure that would safeguard jobs in our valuable tourism industry.”
Kristine Bileskalne, managing director ofTiernan Travel, added: “As an inbound tour operator, a substantial part of our business is chauffeur-driven tours within the UK. Our preference is to support independent blue badge driver guides and so we are worried about the impact of these proposed price increases on our business.”
London is the gateway to the rest of the UK for the majority of international tourists, with more than 50% just visiting London alone.