Want to learn something about the character of a city? Find out how tourists are greeted as they arrive by plane, bus or train. I’ve been travelling in western Canada, and have a few suggestions on how to make visitors feel welcome.
It’s true that airports earn great revenues from parking charges, as well as the license fees paid by taxis, limos and private shuttle bus companies. Transit is usually an afterthought — until politicians cut the ribbon on expensive rail links to downtown.
Everyone knows they can get a cab at an airport anywhere in the world. So please, also notify incoming travellers where to find both the private and public transit buses. Co-ordinate with the local tourism authorities and transit agencies and provide enough information to make sure visitors know all their options before they leave the airport, bus depot or train station.
As a recent visitor to this year’s Calgary Stampede, I had a great time. However, I found that Calgary Transit does a poor job of posting information like schedules and maps right across the city. Edmonton’s transit service appears to do better, although I was surprised there is no local bus to the city’s airport.
Employees at the official tourism desk in Calgary airport took it upon themselves to print small instruction sheets on where to board the transit bus, and how much change to have ready. Calgary’s Greyhound bus depot was another story. It’s isolated and bereft of transit info. Hello, bus companies and VIA Rail — many of your customers take local transit!
Walking out of Vancouver’s air terminal is a treat — the city buses are right there. Too bad there’s no shelter in case some B.C. rain falls as you line up to board. I was already armed with bus tickets bought at an airport shop — and with a basic transit map, thanks to the Tourism B.C. Visitor Centre located just outside the baggage claim area.
Compare that to Toronto: From what I can tell, it is not possible to buy transit fares or day passes at Pearson airport. A transit map? Good luck. Of course, there is good TTC service to the subway — it’s just that info is hard to come by.
There are no government booths to welcome tourists at any of our major urban entry points. If it wasn’t for the volunteers at Traveller’s Aid kiosks at Pearson, Union Station and the Bay Street coach terminal, people arriving in Toronto might wonder if we give a hoot about tourism.
And lastly, could every TTC driver on the “192 Airport Rocket” please announce the terminals? It really helps.