By Humphrey Carter

PALMA
THE Spanish government yesterday ruled out following the example set by the United States this month and begin charging travellers to apply for permission to enter the country.

The announcement by the Minister for Finance, Elena Salgado yesterday, came out of the blue for many sectors of the tourist industry because very few people were aware of the move even being discussed in Spain.

But, fortunately, the Minister has decided that introducing a new charge “is not a good idea” and announced that it will not be introduced after a meeting with the development Minister earlier in the day.

Salgado admitted that while some sectors maintain it would generate extra income for the tourist industry, the overall opinion is that it would actually have the opposite affect considering the current problems the travel and airlines industries in Europe are having and that an extra cost of coming to Spain would probably force even more potential holiday makers elsewhere.

It appears that last month, the mayor of Barcelona Jordi Hereu, suggested that Spain's key tourist destinations should be given free range to introduce tourist taxes, should they wish, to help generate extra revenue for the local travel industry.

Hereu claims that the extra funding could be used to boost promotional campaigns and also be invested in improving services.
However, Salgado made it clear that the Spanish government is going to take no such action. “The United States takes decisions in its best interests but personally, I don't think it is a good idea and I am unaware of it being a serious issue here in Spain,” she added.

The United States's compulsory Electronic System for Travel Authorisation (Esta) is free at present, but from September 9, visitors to the US will have to pay $14 (nine pounds) for it.

It lasts for two years; people who already have a valid form will not have to pay until their current one expires.
The scheme was introduced in January 2009 but was made mandatory from January 2010.
It applies to all 35 countries with US “visa waiver” status.
The Electronic System for Travel Authorisation form, which takes up to 72 hours to be approved, gives air passengers prior approval for entry to the US. It replaced the green I-94 card which passengers have previously filled in on their flight into the US.

But British Airways and American Airlines are advising travellers to apply at least 72 hours in advance.

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