The rate of the tourist tax seems set to increase in 2018. The government, speaking of a need to regulate the flow of tourists into the Balearics, sees an increase as a means of achieving this. PSOE, which has previously not subscribed to the idea of tourist limits, appears to now believe there is a need, with the tourist tax a potential way of establishing limits. For the tourism minister, Biel Barceló (Més), an increase in the tax, with limits in mind, would represent something of a shift in his stance. He has in the past said that the tourist tax is not a tool for limiting tourist numbers.
A firm decision has yet to be made, but it is understood that an increased tax rate will be under discussion at PSOE's congress next weekend. How much the increase might be is therefore also not known, but Podemos have stated that a doubling of the tax will be a requirement for them approving the 2018 budget.
The government is insisting that an increase will be a regulatory measure and not a revenue-raising one. But if current levels of tourism were to continue, it is hard to avoid concluding that it is for additional revenue. Depending on how much the tax increases, it might also not make any significant difference to the number of tourists: the principle of limits wouldn't therefore be of great relevance.
The government is also looking at reducing the period for the 50% low season discount. At present, the tax goes down by a half from November to April. From next year, it seems certain that the full rate will apply to April and possibly also to March. Given that the government has made much of seeking to distribute tourism more evenly, rather than there being such a heavy concentration in the summer months, removing the discount for March and April would seem to contradict this aim. Moreover, it would only add to an impression that the increase is for revenue rather than regulatory purposes.
A further change being contemplated is to cruise ship passengers. The current rule is that a ship has to be in port for twelve hours for the tax to be applied. The government is considering scrapping this. The tax (of one euro per passenger at the moment) would be paid regardless of the time in port. This change comes against the background of a decrease in the number of passengers this year: up to April at any rate. There were more than 40,000 fewer at Balearic ports over the first four months of the year, though the numbers do habitually increase significantly in the main summer months.
Where hotels are concerned, the current rate for three star is one euro per night (May to October). This rises to two euros for four star superior and five star accommodation. It is understood that some ministers are in favour of upping the lower rate in an attempt to tackle so-called drunken tourism. Others believe that tourists who are paying top room rates for the best quality and starred hotels should pay more.
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