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Travel

Mallorca slaps on an eco-tax

Holidaymakers on the Balearic islands Mallorca, Menorca, Ibiza and Formentera will have to dig deeper in their pockets. Only children and youngsters are exempt from the eco-tax.

Mallorca is about to enjoy its most successful summer ever, as an unprecedented record-breaking number of tourists head to their island.
However, hotel and restaurant owners on the Spanish holiday island seem far from happy. The Brexit news has made many nervous. Additionally, as of July 1, they will begin charging the disputed tourist eco-tax. Hotel reception desks will be adding an extra nightly charge of 0.25 to two euros ($0.27 to 2.22) per guest to the bill.

In spring, the left-wing dominated parliament in Palma de Mallorca decided the amount charged would depend on the type of accommodation. The tax is on a sliding scale where you pay least if you stay at a campsite or hostel, while the maximum amount will apply to guests of luxury hotels and up-market apartments. Visitors during off-season will pay only half the high-season amount. In addition, this tax is subject to a 10-percent goods and services tax. Guests under the age of 17 will be exempt from the tax.
Passengers on cruise ships will also be expected to pay their contribution - thought to be from 0.50 to one euro. The tax also applies to those renting holiday apartments - though many will avoid payment, as most of these holiday homes are not officially registered as such.

The Mallorca Hotel Business Federation (FEHM) has tried over the past months to stop the levy from being introduced - without success. The president of the federation, Inmaculada Benito, argues that the businesses they represent will no longer be able to compete and that there is a real threat of investments declining. "We'll be the only sun and beach destination in the Mediterranean that will have such a tax," she said. Gabriel Escarrer Julià, president of the hotel chain Meliá, mainly based on Mallorca, called it "shooting ourselves in the foot."

Magaluf, a holiday resort to the west of Palma that caters predominantly to British guests, could really suffer from the combined effects of both the eco-tax and the Brexit vote.

Despite the success of tourist taxes in other Spanish regions like Catalonia, many on Mallorca remember the fiasco in 2001 and 2003. Back then, some 160 million euros were raised by a special tourist tax - but in the long-term, it cost more due to the decline in visitor numbers.

Critics fear that among the 12.5 million guests (including more than 3.2 million Germans) who visited the islands last year, the low-cost travelers will be put off by the additional tax.

Before the introduction of the levy, the number of Balearic holiday bookings until April 30 leapt to 1.45 million, an increase of nearly 22 percent on the preceding year - driven mainly by safety concerns in other tourist regions.

The government in charge of the Balearic archipelago hopes the eco-tax will bring in as much as 80 million euro per year. The money is to be invested in protecting the environment and landscape conservation as well as encouraging sustainable tourism. That's why it was called "Ecotasa" or eco-tax. Balearic Vice-president and Minister for Tourism, Biel Barcelo, promised that visitors will this way help to maintain "the paradise that is the Balearic Islands."

is/at/sbc (dpa)