Ghent city council has approved a proposal to banish horse-drawn carriages for sightseeing tourists from the city centre starting next year. The city said the coaches no longer fit in with the council’s vision of “quality tourism” for the city. They are also a problem given the numbers of tourists in the city centre, and the council raised the issue of animal welfare.
The coaches are operated by Koetsen van Gent, a private company whose licence is normally renewed every year. The decision means that licence will not be renewed when it expires in 2020. Ghent has already banned the letting of holiday homes within the city, and the ban on horse-drawn carriages follows the example of Amsterdam and Rome, said the city’s councillor in charge of tourism, Bram van Braeckevelt.
“Ghent is aiming for quality tourism,” he said. “That is tourism that also has a value for the people of Ghent themselves, and that is based on the city’s authenticity. Horse-drawn carriages riding around does not fit in with that vision,”
On the question of animal welfare, explained councillor Tine Heyse, the city already imposes strict standards. “There is the matter of the timing of tours, routes, legal rest times and resting places for the horses,” she said. Horses can work a maximum of eight hours a day, and must take a break of at least ten minutes between tours. “From 2020 we will take things a step further. Ghent already has plenty of tourist alternatives on offer.”
“At the beginning of the week I was invited to come to the town hall on Thursday morning,” said Luc Claeys of Koetsen van Gent. “There I was told that I have to shut up shop in eight months. There was no discussion, I was simply presented with a fait accompli. And as far as animal welfare is concerned, they have no complaint. I have met all of their requirements. If it’s too warm we don’t go out, we take a break after every trip, and the animals get all the care and attention they need. I’m 55 years old now, and I don’t know what to do. I also have the problem of what to do with the horses.”