Balearics tax will 'drive off tourists'

Balearics tax will 'drive off tourists'

Tourists will be “driven away” from the Balearic Islands if the destination’s government reintroduces a tax on visitors, the UK trade has warned.

The proposed eco-tax, which would cost €1-€2 per person per night from next year, is intended to help preserve the islands’ environment. If introduced, it could add £80 to the cost of a two-week holiday for a family of four.

The islands, which attract almost 3.5 million visitors from the UK each year, scrapped a similar tax in 2003 just one year after it was introduced, because it was deterring holidaymakers.

However, last week the islands’ vice-president and tourism minister, Biel Barceló, told a parliamentary hearing that it would apply a tourist tax in 2016 “with or without the help of the state” because it is “absolutely necessary”.

Thomas Cook chief executive Peter Fankhauser said in a statement that the tax could 
lead to families, in particular, turning to cheaper destinations.

“We all remember the ‘ecotasa’ that died a quiet death,” he said.

Gary Lewis, group managing director at The Travel Network Group, said: “It doesn’t seem right to penalise those making a positive contribution to the local economy.”

Advantage Travel Partnership head of commercial John Sullivan added: "The trouble is with the word tax is that from the customer’s point of view it is not particularly friendly, so that is a challenge in itself.

"What is the tax going to be invested in? Are tourists going to see an improvement as a result of it?

"The Balearics are massive for the UK market and I think they are a great destination, but everything can reach a price ceiling."

An Abta spokesman said that should the association receive official confirmation of the levy, it would write to the Balearics government “reminding it that the tax would have only the unintended consequence of driving tourists away from the islands”.

The proposed tax is under discussion and a limit on the number of nights charged is being considered. There would be an exemption for young children and it is “very likely” that it would be reduced out of season.

A spokesman for the Balearics government said: “The aim is to preserve this paradise, which so many Britons visit year after year.”

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