Destinations funding sustainability through tourist taxes

Destinations funding sustainability through tourist taxes

If you have traveled in the past few years, you may have noticed a small tourist tax added to your bill upon booking or when checking into your hotel. Though tourist fees are often negligible, totaling on average only a few dollars per night, these types of fees are considered by destinations and accommodations to be one of the easiest ways for globetrotters to give back to the places they visit.

Grappling with the impacts of overtourism pre-pandemic, destinations like Amsterdam, Venice and Barcelona were some of the first to introduce these types of taxes to redistribute profits back into communities and offset costs for the maintenance of public facilities. With reopening in full swing, the use of these taxes has shifted towards building back better.

Funds are now being used to support the upkeep of sustainable tourism infrastructure, conservation projects and other plans to improve the “eco-friendliness” of hotspots. Although these taxes aim to support destinations with their sustainable development, transparency is needed to gain consumer (and industry) trust so that destinations continue to adopt them. With this in mind, let’s dive into how the following destinations have turned contributions from tourist taxes into valuable sustainable tourism initiatives.

Balearic Islands, Spain

The Balearic Islands, an archipelago of established tourism destinations, Ibiza and Majorca, are situated just east of mainland Spain’s Mediterranean coast. Known for their azure waters, best-in-show nightlife and stunning cliffside villages, these Balearic islands are one of the most trodden summer destinations, drawing in hordes of European travelers each year.

To shift the islands’ focus toward preserving biodiversity and cultural heritage, the Committee for Sustainable Tourism was created to select and fund projects using the profit generated by the tourist tax of 1-4 euro (approx. US $1-4.40) per day depending on the type of accommodation and duration of stay. To date, the tax has been put towards supporting windmill owners in Majorca, a heritage asset and the renovation of tourism infrastructure at UNESCO World Heritage site, Tramuntana mountain range.

New Zealand

Another, albeit less tropical, island that is supporting environmental development through tourism spending is New Zealand. Upon arrival, visitors pay a NZ $35 fee (approx. US $24), otherwise known as the “International Visitor Conservation and Tourism Levy” (IVL). This mandatory tax applicable to all foreign visitors was introduced in 2019 and has since been used for the conservation of natural tourist attractions and surrounding amenities. Conservation research and development projects have been awarded over NZ $3 million (approx. US $2.08 million) to protect some of the country’s most beautiful tourist destinations, Milford Sound and Cook National Park.

This is an excerpt from an article by Melissa Novotny, originally published by Travel Pulse.

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