Friday, April 24, 2015

The Benefits Of A Tourist Tax

Catalonia, in case you need reminding, is the only region of Spain which has a tourist tax. It is not an "eco" tax, it is a tourist tax plain and simple, one designed to raise revenue, much of it allocated to purposes for which it was intended: improvements to the tourism offer, promotion, and tackling seasonality. The Catalonian Government has published, in detailed graphical form, the sources of revenue from the tax - by type of tourism accommodation and by areas of Catalonia.

To cut to the chase, the tax had swelled the government's coffers to the tune of 82.3 million euros from the time it was introduced (November 2012) to the end of last year. The revenue is not as great as had at one time been estimated, but this is because the tariffs were reduced from those that had initially been proposed, while a maximum limit of seven nights to which the tax could apply was introduced and under-16s were excluded.

The graphics are revealing in two ways. If one takes the figures for the Costa Brava, the revenue raised by hotel establishments amounts to just over two-thirds. Of the rest, there is significant revenue from camping and from what is simply referred to as "apartment". Camping in Catalonia is a very important aspect of the region's tourism. It is something which in Mallorca doesn't exist in commercial terms: the product of 1986 legislation that made camping all but commercially unfeasible. As for "apartment", a good amount of this will be from private apartments which have been regulated for commercial exploitation under the Catalonian system of standards of accommodation (similar to the "keys" categorisation which applies to the official tourist apartments in Mallorca). There is, of course, no such system for private apartments in Mallorca.

So, Catalonia, which attracts roughly 50% more tourists per annum than the whole of the Balearics, benefits by some 40 million euros a year because of what is a relatively modest tax. It is a tax about which many in the local tourism industry had their doubts, including the president of the travel agencies' association. Yet he, Martí Sarrate, has said that the tax has not affected tourism. Indeed, the revenues have proved to be a "good" thing. When making these observations, he added that a similar tax in the Balearics need not have the negative consequences that many believe that it would.

The possibility of a revival of the eco-tax in the Balearics is fairly and squarely on the political agenda and is a feature of the election battle. President Bauzá remarked the other day that its reintroduction would be an "error". He may be right and it may well indeed be unsuited to Mallorca because of the volume of negative international publicity that a tax would create. But even so, 40 odd million per year is a sum not to be sniffed at.

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