By Andrea Wren
An already expensive city to visit and stay in, I just read on TravelMole that from the 1st July 2011, Venice will be imposing a 'tourist tax' on accommodation, as the city of Florence already does. This will be mean that a tourist will need to pay 1 Euro per night of stay, per star of category, for up to a maximum of five nights.
So, a person staying in a 5 star hotel for five nights or more will pay an extra EUR25 on top of their holiday cost, for the privilege of visiting Venice. It is claimed the tax will help infrastructure as well as all Venice’s cultural monuments.
There are exemptions, including staying in hostels and the under 10s, but some would argue that such a tax on tourists is a draconian way of bringing income into a 'successful' destination like Venice, where although tourist numbers are excessive, they also tend to be day-trippers and cruise-shippers - not spending much but arriving and leaving in big droves.
Obviously, if tourists are not spending an awful lot of money, then their mass prescence will just increase the expense for a city - such as in cleaning and environmental management (as well as be a pain in the ass for residents!). But is charging a tax to the tourists that WILL be spending their cash - the ones booking accommodation and eating meals in Venice - the way to deal with this issue?
A tourist 'punishment'?
Unsurprisingly, it seems that local hotel associations and trade body ‘Confinmercio’ are opposed to the accommodation tax. They know it will put people off staying, and it feels like a penalty. Yes, admittedly the cost is a relatively low additional expense - if you're in a 3 star hotel you'll pay an extra EUR15 at the most per person - but should the spending tourists be paying for the ones who aren't?
While I'm totally for the idea of sustainable tourism and think that tourists should contribute to the local economies they visit, I don't think this is the way forwards. If anything, the tax should be targeted towards the low-spenders in the city, such as cruise-ship visitors - and could be imposed on return to the ship, providing the visitors haven't spent a certain amount while in town?
And surely there are more positive ways to encourage visitors to spend more, anyway?
Where will it end?
The thing is, if most Italian cities follow suit, then it may be a low tax for just coming to one of those cities, but to travel around Italy could be much more expensive. And while on one side the tourist boards of destinations are working hard to bring tourists in, do people really want to visit a place when they feel like they're also being penalised for doing so?
I'd be interested to hear your thoughts.