The new sustainable tourism tax, or tourist tax, comes into force in the Balearics from tomorrow (Friday). All overnight stays in "tourist accommodation", which the minister for tourism, Biel Barcelo, explained to the Bulletin this week will include holiday property lets, will be subject to the tax.
The tax costs one euro per day for stays in one-star to three-star hotels and cruise ships; one euro, fifty cents for three-star superior and four-star; and two euros for stays in four-star superior and five-star hotels. There is an additional 10% IVA (VAT) on top of this. Children aged under 16 will be exempt from the tax. During low season (1 November -30 April), there will be a 50% discount. Tax payable by long-term holidaymakers will be reduced to 50% from the ninth day of their stay.
Barcelo said that the cost will represent a maximum surcharge of no more than 1.4% of the respective holiday budget.
Despite the tax meaning an additional charge to holidays, albeit minimal, there has been relatively little negative reaction from the tourist industry and the media overseas, especially in the UK and Germany - unlike the last time the Balearic government introduced a tourist tax, which it was forced to scrap because of the backlash.
"It has also been accepted here in the Balearics," Barcelo said. "This time round I think everybody understands that we need to raise extra funds to protect the environment and to invest in our heritage, culture, tourism innovation, tackling seasonality and so creating more low-season employment.
"Considering the little return we get from Madrid on the taxes the Balearics pays in, we’ve got to be more self-sufficient, and this is one of the ways we intend to go about protecting and improving the future of the islands, for residents and for the visitors.
"Over the course of what is left of this year we aim to raise an extra 40 million euros, and next year we’re talking about almost 80 million.
"We’re going to be distributing leaflets in various languages to hotels and other tourism outlets explaining what we intend to do with the tax, but in short the message is ‘thank you’ for playing an important part in the preservation of the Balearics.
"One has to understand that the floating population of the Balearics comes with a cost. At the peak of August, we are going to have some two million people across the islands. That is nearly double the resident population and puts a huge strain on all the natural resources, infrastructure and the environment, which is extremely fragile. All that comes with a cost, so all we are asking visitors is to help in creating a sustainable tourism model which will enable us to protect the region, improve the quality of life and ensure that it remains a popular tourist destination.
"We have created a commission which will meet every year and discuss what the priorities are with regard to how the money raised from the tourist tax is going to be spent. This commission for the promotion of sustainable tourism will comprise representatives from the different islands, business associations, trade unions, environmental protection groups and others, but what we are not going to get involved in is large infrastructure projects which are going to require lots of time and money.
"I think the travelling public, and the industry as a whole, has grown accustomed to paying a tourist tax. For example, 47 states in the United States charge one and a growing number of European countries do as well."
The government is also developing a specific website on the tax which will provide visitors, tour operators and local residents with a way of monitoring how the funds raised are being used and information on the different projects and initiatives that will be developed.