Spain announces plans for eco-tax on tourism

Balearics government proposal for pilot eco-tax scheme gets mixed reception from tourism industry

One of Spain's major tourist destinations, the island of Minorca, is to become the first place in Europe to experiment with a so-called eco-tax on tourism. Levied on holiday-makers, the tax will aim to alleviate the effects of mass tourism on the environment.

The Balearic islands' regional government first proposed such a measure when it came to power after elections in June. It has already moved more quickly than many observers expected, receiving enthusiastic backing last Friday from hotel owners on the islands of Minorca and Formentera. A spokesperson for the Balearic tourism department confirmed to ENDS Daily that, barring unforeseen legal difficulties, an eco-tax would be introduced next year "as a pilot project" on Minorca.

Full details have yet to be worked out, but the Balearics revenue department said the tax would not exceed euros 12 (SPta2,000) per head and would "probably be levied on visitors either on arrival at airports or ports, or when registering at hotels." About euros 18m a year would be raised if it were extended to all the islands, the department estimated.

The revenue will be earmarked for the maintenance of national parks and the restoration of damaged coastline. Questioned about whether the tax might discourage tourists, regional finance minister Joan Mesquida replied that, if they could not pay this sort of money, "I'd rather [they] didn't come". A spokesperson for the Minorcan hotel owners' association told ENDS Daily that the proposal was a way of responding "to our clients who are demanding a better quality environment. This is a revolution in the tourist industry and one which we welcome."

The proposal has, however, met with opposition from other sectors of the Balearics tourist industry which fears that the tax will impose an unfair burden on its business. "There is no reason why hoteliers should assume responsibility for the degradation of the environment," said a representative of hotel owners on Majorca, which is a designated Unesco world biosphere reserve. The twin problems of the destruction of coastline and of waste disposal - both connected to the growth of tourism - have moved to the top of the political agenda in the Balearics in recent years.

Follow Up:
Balearics government tourism department, tel: +34 971 176 191; Balearics revenue department, tel: + 34 971 176 720; Minorcan hotel owners' association, tel: +34 971 361 009.

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