Little things can grate when you're on holiday. So many added extras that nibble away at your bank balance – on your fifth trip to the ATM in a week, you're bound to be thinking: "Hang on, where did all my money go?". Then you do some sums, find some train tickets and museum stubs at the bottom of your bags and realise nearly every penny spent has enhanced your trip away.
There are always extra or unplanned charges that and send my whinge o'metre ringing (including, but not limited to, the ridiculous resort fee common in the US; paying an "electricity" charge; extra taxi levies on weekends; unnecessary insurance on car rentals; and so on.)
But a tourist tax is not one of them. A few euros a night doesn't faze me, particularly if it is further invested into a city's infrastructure and public spaces that tourists overwhelmingly benefit from. Not only does it not faze me but – like the overwhelming majority of travellers – it has zero impact on my decision to visit a destination or not. Why would it? Climate, reputation, events, beaches, natural wonder, history, architecture, adventure, friends, family – these are the levers that get people crossing oceans and spending the tourist dollar.
Research was published in June from Istanbul University on tourists' willingness to pay a tourist tax and their expectations for where it would go. The study not only found a majority of tourists who had booked accommodation would be willing to pay an added fee, but the average acceptable rate of the per-night charge was €4.80 ($7.94) a day. Even at that level it would have a shrug-worthy impact on your tourist budget.
However – and this is where the policy sinks or swims – it's critical travellers see and feel the impacts of parting with the levy. Topping the list of requirements from this research group was enhanced safety and infrastructure in tourist hotspots, as well as transport, wi-fi (!), and restoration and upkeep of historical relics and buildings. Details regarding rates, exceptions and more would need to be ironed out but it's silly to assume tourists are unaware of the extra strain they put on resources.
But don't they pay enough? Tax will only deter people from travelling to our already remote and rather expensive nation.
However, with soaring arrival numbers and strained tourist infrastructure, chucking a small levy on tourist nights (hotels, camper vans, Airbnbs all included) could address some of the problems.
Destinations overflowing with holidaymakers (to the point of locals protesting against them), such as Venice and Barcelona, have city stay taxes – and yet the paths to Barce's beaches and Venice's canals remain rammed all summer.
Since its introduction in 2012 in Barcelona's province of Catalonia, a tourist levy (no more than €2.50 a person, per night) has raised more than €130 million for tourism agencies and town hall coffers. It is an extra (sometimes surprise) cost put on travellers and a handful of them may go elsewhere: But if anyone's crying over a few extra dollars a night to preserve our parks, erect signage and tidy up our roads, are they really the types of visitors you want sniffing around in your backyard?
A levy playing field: what you'll pay
Paris: €0.20 - €1.50 per person, per night
Florence €1-€5pp, per night
Rome €3-€7pp, per night
Barcelona: €0.45-€2.50pp, per night
Berlin: 5 per cent of net price of accommodation
Athens 13 per cent of net price
Amsterdam: 5.5 per cent of net price
Dublin: 6.75 per cent of net price
Budapest: 4.4 per cent of net price
Written by Josh Martin. Republished with permission of Stuff.co.nz.