Saturday, April 16, 2016

Tour Operators Unclear About The Tourist Tax

As we prepare for the July storm to break, the tourist tax is slowly finding its way into the travelling public's consciousness. Trip Advisor has been quite useful in this regard with the sharing of information pleasingly accurate. Less pleasing is a generally negative attitude towards the tax, which is hardly surprising.

Thomson, like Jet2, have been emailing clients to tell them about the tax, but from a quick glance at tour operator websites, the news of the tax doesn't feature prominently. Thomas Cook does at least have a full explanation, though one has to go to Travel Updates to find it listed as "sustainable tourism tax". What is revealing, though, is that Thomas Cook is unable to give totally certain information. This is because it doesn't have it. No one does. On "when and how to pay", it says that it is "likely" that travellers will have to pay when checking in at their accommodation. "The government haven't advised how this should be paid." A recommendation is made to take sufficient euros to cover the cost.

Thomas Cook also can't say whether the tax will apply if travellers arrive before 1 July and then stay beyond the introduction date of 1 July. Again, the recommendation is to have money just in case. As for "why do I have to pay?", Thomas Cook points out that the tax is specifically aimed at tourists, that it is a cost beyond its control. The tour operator accepts that the tax is "something you probably weren't expecting to pay and is sorry the government has decided to bring this in so quickly".

Whatever communications the tourism ministry is sending to the tour operators, they are clearly incomplete and partly this is the result of the tax having been rushed in. Thomas Cook is absolutely right in this regard, and it is more than just regrettable that the ministry (and government) is leaving even the major players, like the big tour operators, in the dark and unable to give complete information. The government's handling of the tax's introduction has been incompetent.

There have been some criticisms of tour operators. If they knew about the tax before, why did they not say anything earlier? It's true enough that the tour operators were well aware of the intention to bring in the tax. It was, for instance, given a good airing at London's Travel Market last November but had been spoken about more or less from the moment the new government took office in late June. In the tour operators' defence, though, until the tax was officially and definitively approved by parliament, it was difficult for them to say anything to their clients. The approval wasn't until the week before Easter, and it might be remembered that there was just a chance - right up until the last minute - that Podemos might have scuppered it.

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