Tour operators have expressed disappointment at plans for a nightly tourist tax in Barcelona and resorts in the Costa Brava from November 1.
The regional government of Catalunia is introducing the tax of between 50 cents (40p) and €2.50 (£2) a night on all overnight stays in Catalonia after months of wrangling.
It covers one to five star hotels, apartments, campsites and rural tourism accommodation and will be collected as holidaymakers check out of their accommodation.
Thomas Cook director of government and external affairs Andy Cooper said the group had written to the Catalan government before the tax was finalised and urged it to reconsider its plans because of the impact it could have on tourist numbers.
He said: “We are therefore disappointed they have still chosen to implement this tax. Whilst we accept governments can introduce taxes of this nature, past experience in Spain has shown that new hotel bed taxes can cause significant damage to tourism, and can be counter productive.”
Cosmos Holidays managing director Hugh Morgan is concerned holidaymakers will vote with their feet and go elsewhere.
“This hike in tax strategy will raise revenues but will customers then decide to go to other destinations where they are not raising them, such as Turkey, Egypt and Greece? Only time will tell, if it continues, which will be a great mistake and shame,” he said.
He added: “What l find frustrating is the casual way in which in this case the Catalan government has decided to increase prices in hotels. There has not been to my knowledge any official notification via Catalan tourist officials to operators in the UK.”
Kirker Holidays sales director Ted Wake said all clients would be made aware of the tax in their holiday documents and in some cases the operator would be prepared to absorb the tax if clients who have already booked for November were unhappy with the situation.
“We would take a view on an individual basis,” he said, adding: “While we would prefer the local government not to be taxing our clients we have to be pragmatic in this age of austerity. We are fortunate we handle clients on an individual basis and we can explain it.”
Meanwhile, Morgan feared the tax hikes were part of a trend, following plans for an increase in Spanish airport tax this summer.
This could lead to passengers being charged an extra £4 to £8 each. He added: “It would seem to be a trend starting in Spain to suddenly start introducing taxes on tourists.”
Local hotel and tourist associations opposed the latest tax, arguing it would damage tourism. However, the regional parliament agreed to go ahead with the tax last month following its acceptance by the Spanish hotel industry and business associations.
In a statement following the decision, a coalition of industry bodies said: “The sector has taken this decision mindful of the serious financial situation of the Catalan coffers in an exercise of responsibility and sensitivity to the country.”
The introduction of the tax, which had been planned for this summer, has been deferred until November.
For accommodation below a four-star rating, the tax will be 75 cents (60p) per person per night in Barcelona and 50 cents (40p) for the rest of Catalonia.
It will be €1.25 (£1) for four-star accommodation in Barcelona and €1 (80p) for the rest of Catalonia, and €2.50 (£2) for five star accommodation.
The tax will only apply to adults and will not apply for more than seven nights. It should also be restricted to two people per room - a maximum of €5 (£4) per night.
The Catalan region includes Barcelona and the beach resorts of the Costa Brava and Costa Dorada.
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