The number of cars on our roads rises every year and as a result, the case for managing parking gets ever stronger. In tourism – where 65 per cent of day trips are taken by car – ensuring that visitors can easily find and access parking can make a huge difference to their experience.
Parking for tourists is different to the usual parking offering. Tourists will be unfamiliar with the destination and wanting to stay longer than the two-hour average. For a parking provider, there's the question of parking capacity, and supply and demand fluctuating through the year.
How visitors get their information is varied, but in most cases the internet plays the biggest part. It’s where the detail can be provided but simply presented. On arrival at the destination, signage is really important and supplying good information here is vital. If the actual attraction is some way off, the visitor will require further information in order to get there.
The cost of parking is always a very sensitive issue. Many attractions are able to offer free parking, but where parking isn’t provided charges may be incurred. Tourists are medium and long stay users so ideally, the fees will need to reflect this. In central areas, however, long stay parking can, and will, attract commuters who take up vital spaces for tourists, which creates an issue. Medium to long stay parking is discouraged for commuters but encouraged for tourists. As this is the first cost the tourist encounters at their destination, it leaves a very big impression.
Location of the parking facility should not be an after-thought. Regarding visual intrusion, the issue here is how tourist parking fits into the overall scheme of the site and the general local amenity. This is not simply a question of visual aesthetics such as adequate landscaping. It also includes issues of park and walk, park and ride and park and shuttle, taking full account of the amenity and safety of the area.
In essence, parking provision requires commitment and an understanding that it's an important issue, which has not always been the case; such as instances where the tourists are coming to see a temporary or seasonal event, for example. Frequently parking provision has simply been the nearest field. In these cases, consideration for the wider population whose environment may be disrupted should be given.
Communicating the location of the parking is an integral part of seamless journeys and accessibility. Information can be included on sat navs as well as on road signs. The central aim must be to indicate to the tourist which car parks are meant for them and of course where the attraction is.
Motorists will increasingly be seeking safer parking facilities, which is especially important at tourist sites where vehicles may be left unattended for relatively long periods of time, sometimes in remote locations. The police owned Safer Parking Scheme is a benchmark standard for parking provision. A specially trained police assessor will make an assessment against four criteria known to reduce vehicle-related crime and the fear of crime in parking facilities. These are lighting, surveillance, cleanliness and good management. If the parking facility passes it is given a Park Mark award. With 65 per cent of motorists saying they would choose a Park Mark-awarded car park over one that has not been assessed, this scheme is definitely one to consider.
Disabled parking provision is also much overlooked. The biggest barrier for disabled motorists is the abuse of disabled parking bays. However, with the right management, this can be overcome. The Disabled Parking Accreditation is one way of being able to demonstrate the quality of disabled parking on offer and that these spaces are managed specifically for disabled motorists.
The benefits of these awards are an increase in trust between the motorist and the parking provider, leading to high ratings for the parking facility and repeat custom.
Getting the parking right is good for the parking provider and a clear asset for any destination. It can be a value factor which distinguishes one site from another. Making proper provision means obvious increases in extra revenue, attracting high spending visitors and getting maximum usage from car parks which may otherwise be underused.
From 2–4 April, The British Parking Association is hosting Parkex, Europe’s largest dedicated parking exhibition at the NEC, in Birmingham, UK. Why not come along and discuss how awards and accreditations can benefit your business, experience new innovations in parking technology and immerse yourself in all things parking.
The event is free of charge. Register your interest at www.parkex.co.uk