Too many tourists?

Photo: Bud Ellison

Rome is considering raising taxes for visitors in the coming year. 2016 will mark a jubilee year for the Italian capital and, as such, is expected to a bumper one for the tourism industry. But the city’s officials, spurred by concerns of over-crowding, are considering hiking the cost for visitors.

Coach loads of tourists could be charged €1,000 a day to enter the city, five times the current price of a cach permit, reports The Telegraph , while taxes on accommodation were introduced last year.

The European Tourism Association said the move “threatens prepaid contracts for travel in 2016 and beyond and is yet another cost that is making Rome an expensive and unpredictable destination”. Indeed, the increase could raise as much as €54 million extra for the city during 2016.

But while it could help to fund infrastrucutre improvements to support its Olympic Games bid, the move is potentially driven by frustrated locals as much as the country’s coffers: last year, 90,000 coaches crowded Rome’s streets, with almost double that number expected to drive into town for the Holy Year.

Indeed, Rome is the latest in a wave of European cities voicing concerns over the number of visitors flooding their streets. Are there simply too many tourists?

The news follows a freeze on all new licences for tourist accommodation introduced by Barcelona’s newly-elected mayor this year, who said that the city needed to stop handling its tourist policy with quick-fix “patches”.

Lisbon, which is now the fastest-growing city destination in southern Europe for overnight visits, has also found its trams filled with tourists and locals annoyed at the level of public drinking.

“There are aspects that need to be balanced out, such as noise in certain areas of Lisbon,” Economic Minister Antonio Pires de Lima told Bloomberg .

Even the Balearics is now planning to introduce an “eco-tax” of between €1 and €2 a day on tourists in Menorca, Mallorca, Ibiza and Formentera.

Tourism, though, has become a key factor in the recovery of housing markets both in Europe and further afield.

In the first seven months of 2015, a record 37.9 million tourists arrived in Spain, up 4.7 per cent on last year. In the same period, almost 3.5 million passengers passed through Ibiza Airport, up 4.9 per cent and the 17th month of passenger growth in a row.

“July figures from the official Hotel Owner’s Federation show occupancy rates up again, and now well above 90 per cent in both Ibiza and Formentera. This is great news for the economy, and Ibiza was ready with many new coastal attractions to welcome the extra visitors,” said Glynn Evans, Managing Director of Ibiza Sotheby’s International Realty, who reported strong sales this year.

In France, meanwhiel, developer MGM reports an avalanche of buyer interest in the resort of Tignes, following the award of a Quality Tourism badge by the government.

Richard Deans, who heads MGM’s UK sales office based in London, told OPP Today : “Visitor numbers are being boosted by the resort’s achievement of the Quality Tourism badge. For resorts which match its stringent critreria, the Qualité Tourisme marque provides an independent endorsement of the way in which visitors are received, the calibre of the tourism services on offer and the way in which they are provided to those who may not speak French.”

MGM will add 43 new ski-in, ski-out apartments to the development in phase one, with 30 of them already sold off-plan.