Spain travel warning as historic city set to impose new ‘tourist tax’ due to ‘uncontrolled tourism’

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A new tourist tax is set to be introduced in a bid to curb “uncontrolled tourism”

British tourists looking to head on holiday to Spain should be aware of an impending new charge at one of the country’s major cities.

Regional officials in Santiago de Compostela intend to impose a tourist fee in an effort to manage “uncontrolled tourism”. The historic city, which is best known as the endpoint of the Pilgrim’s Way, sees pilgrims flock to its Baroque cathedral every year, with 439,000 visiting in 2022 alone.

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The planned tax is set to be introduced on hotels in the city from 2025, which will charge visitors between €0.50 and €2.50 per person, depending on the type of accommodation.

This tax could generate between €2.5 and €3 million for Santiago de Compostela per year, according to Spanish officials, with the funds to be put towards maintaining the historic city centre.

Regional officials in Santiago de Compostela intend to impose a tourist fee (Photo: Adobe)Regional officials in Santiago de Compostela intend to impose a tourist fee (Photo: Adobe)
Regional officials in Santiago de Compostela intend to impose a tourist fee (Photo: Adobe) | Lux Blue - stock.adobe.com

Newly elected Mayor Goretti Sanmartín said she intends to change the city from a tourist destination and theme park to a sustainable tourism destination. In a statement to local media, she said: “We want to enjoy a rich and prosperous tourism sector, but also a comfortable and breathable city.

She added: “I want a Santiago from which there is no need to flee due to uncontrolled tourism. We aspire to… enjoy a rich and prosperous tourism sector but also a comfortable and breathable city.”

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Ms Sanmartín went on to say that the challenges of dealing with overcrowded tourism revolve around increasing “awareness” among the public. She explained: “It’s not so much the issue of the number of people who arrive, but of the people’s knowledge of the fact that the basic norms of coexistence must be respected, and respect and care for the heritage must be guaranteed. It’s more an issue of awareness that we have to address from the very beginning.”

The Mayor cited several challenges including sanitation, security and historical heritage management, which require major financial investment and said this would be covered by the tourist fee.

Santiago de Compostela is not the only Spanish destination where holidaymakers face paying higher costs, as several holiday hotspots have already introduced a ‘tourist tax’, which sees visitors charged a fee for staying overnight.

Catalonia, which includes Barcelona, and the Balearic Islands, including Mallorca and Ibiza, implemented such a tax in 2012 and 2016 respectively, requiring tourists to pay up to €4.00 (£3.50) per night during their stay.

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In 2021, the regional government approved an increase in the surcharge to allow Barcelona city council to charge up to €4.00 per night. As of 1 April this year, the maximum nightly fee tourists will pay is currently €2.75 (£2.40), but this is set to go up again from April next year to €3.25 (£2.80).

The amount tourists pay can depend on where they choose to stay in Barcelona, with five star hotels typically charging more than holiday rentals. Additonally, cruise passengers who spend more than 12 hours in Barcelona are also required to pay a fee.

In the wider region of Catalonia, tourists must pay between €0.60 (£0.52) and €3.00 (£2.60) per night, with the amount varying according to the location and the type of accommodation.

Elsewhere, councils in the Valencia region of Spain have been given the green light to roll out a charge of up to €2.00 (£1.75) per person per night. The tax was approved in the region in November 2022 and is due to take effect from December this year, with fees ranging from €0.50 (£0.43) to €2.00 (1.75) per night depending on the type of accommodation.

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It means that popular destinations like the Costa Blanca and Alicante could be affected, although it will be up to individual councils in the Valencia region to decide whether or not to impose the tax. Officials in Benidorm have already said they do not wish to introduce the extra charge.

In the Balearic Islands, tourists can pay around €4.00 (£3.50) per night, depending on the category of their accommodation and time of year they visit. But upcoming elections could see this amount rise further in Mallorca, with the political party Party Més per Mallorca proposing to increase the tax by as much as 60%.

Elsewhere, the regions of Galicia and San Sebastian are considering introducing a tourist tax, while former tourism minister Reyes Maroto has also hinted at introducing a tax in Madrid if she becomes mayor.

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