Annabel Fenwick-Elliott, The Telegraph, September 30, 2019
In its latest bid to tackle overtourism, Amsterdam is implementing a new levy on travellers - a move which could make it the European city with the dearest tourist tax.
As of January 2020, foreign visitors will be charged €3 (£2.66) per person, per night, to stay in a hotel, in addition to the current 7 per cent of the room rate. Tourists staying in Airbnb rentals will also pay an increased rate of 10 per cent per night.
Vera Al, spokesperson for the city's deputy mayor Groot Wassink, told CNN : "The fact is that numbers are growing - you can't build a fence around the city and we don't want that either.
"Increasing the tax isn't to affect the number of visitors, but it's the principle. It costs a lot to keep our city clean and safe, and our infrastructure - like bridges - in a good state."
There are many ways to calculate tourist rates in cities around Europe, since there are differing implementations. Some, including Rome, charge a fixed nightly rate; while others, like Paris, charge varying fees depending on how many stars a hotel has.
But as an example, staying in a five-star, £300-a-night hotel in Rome - which has the highest fixed charge in Europe - would incur a tourist tax of €7 (£6.20) per person. In Amsterdam, that amount would be €24 (£21.25) added to the bill of a £300-a-night hotel, more than three times as much.
Amsterdam has been cracking down on overtourism in other ways too; now targeting cruise ships (€8 per person for visitors staying 24 hours or less), as well as a ban on new hotels opening in the centre and on tours of the red light district .
Other less conventional methods include its Marry an Amsterdammer initiative, a gimmick experience designed to improve relations between locals and visitors, and to steer them to quieter part of the city.
“To control visitor flow and leverage the opportunities that tourism brings with it, we must act now. Instead of destination promotion, it is now time for destination management,” the tourist board announced in a strategy document which addresses the challenges to be faced between now and 2030.
The number of tourists visiting the Netherlands is expected to grow by 50 per cent in the next decade, from 19 million to 29 million, the document predicts.
Rodney Bolt, Telegraph Travel’s Amsterdam expert, claims the surge in tourism is “fatally poisoning what attracted people to the city in the first place”.
“Soon only the rich will be able to afford to live in the centre, sharing the space with a transitory population of tourists and short-term lets,” he writes . “Amsterdam will be ironed out, homogenized.”
But not everyone is in favour of these rising levies, which according to a recent review conducted by the European Tourism Association (ETOA) now exist in more than 125 destinations across 26 Europen countries.
Tourist taxes, according to the head of the ETOA, are a “ xenophobic gag reflex ” to the growing popularity of holiday hotspots and will harm such destinations more than help.
Speaking to Telegraph Travel, executive director Tom Jenkins said additional levies aimed at visitors are “a very localised form of economic self-mutilation” and hurt the people towns and cities hope to attract.
Nine European countries currently do not impose tourist taxes - yet; Cyprus, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Ireland, Latvia, Luxembourg, Sweden and the United Kingdom.
As far as cities go, Venice, arguably one of the most extreme cases of overtourism in Europe, has so far failed to introduce the tourist tax it has long debated, with implementation now postponed from this month to January 2020.
As many as six cities in the UK, too, are considering their own taxes, including Edinburgh, whose city council has approved the proposal .
“The task of tackling overtourism is a complex one, and there's no straightforward solution,” writes Telegraph Travel’s Greg Dickinson . “No doubt tourist taxes can have positive benefits as a retrospective move.
"But there's definitely an argument that it’s on governments to keep tourism at a sustainable level through better planning and tourist management, rather than allowing the flow to continue and then ask tourists to plaster over the wounds once they're already open.”
Are you happy to pay a tourist tax when you visit a destination? How best could tourism be managed? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.