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‘Only the rich will travel’: How EU rules could cost Spain 11 million tourists

EU measures to reduce the aviation sector's net emissions by 2050 could have a huge impact on Spain's tourism industry and economy, the country's main airline and tourism associations have warned.

'Only the rich will travel': How EU rules could cost Spain 11 million tourists
For a country like Spain, whose tourism sector makes almost 13 percent of its overall GDP, the socioeconomic effects of the EU's new emissions law could be dramatic.(Photo by TIMOTHY A. CLARY / AFP)

Leading airline bosses have warned that EU plans to reduce the aviation industry’s net emissions to zero by 2050 could have a major impact on the Spanish tourism sector, with potential losses of 11 million international tourists a year, according to a report.

The startling figure comes from a report made by consulting firm Deloitte, who estimate that the loss of tourists could mean a reduction in Spain’s GDP by around 1.6 percent (roughly €23 billion) and the loss of 430,000 jobs by 2030. 

The economic impact would be felt across different sectors, too, with the hospitality sector projected to lose €3.6 billion, and the new tax measures on aviation alone would mean a 0.9 percent drop in GDP and 236,000 jobs lost.

READ ALSO: Spain eyes tourism record after ‘dazzling’ summer surge

For a country like Spain, whose tourism sector makes almost 13 percent of its overall GDP, the socioeconomic effects could be dramatic.

Spain is the second most visited tourist destination in the world, with over 80 million visitors a year, and it is expected that it could be one of the countries most effected by the incoming changes to the aviation sector as eight out of every ten international visitors to Spain come by plane.

The Deloitte report was presented at an event jointly held by the ALA, Spain’s airline association, and the CEOE, its business federation, during which the presidents of both bodies met with the bosses of some of the biggest airlines in the Spanish market.

‘Only the rich will travel’

The environmental measures wouldn’t only have an impact on the Spanish economy or its big airlines, however.

At the meeting Jesús Cierco, Corporate Director at Iberia Express, expressed his fear that “these measures will make only the elites able to travel,” suggesting that any increased costs to the aviation industry could be passed down to the consumer. These include the use of sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) , the restriction of emission rights, the application of a tax on kerosene and the possible application of a €7.85 tax on airline tickets.

The Deloitte report suggests that the use of sustainable fuel to meet the 2050 deadline, which is as much as 6 times more expensive than normal fuel, combined with a tax on kerosene and reduced CO2, which will also become more expensive, mean that costs could rise for the consumer – in this case tourists hoping for cheap flights abroad. 

READ ALSO: How Spain is imposing caps on visitor numbers for its top attractions

Javier Gándara, president of ALA, explained that “airlines are committed to achieving zero net emissions by 2050 and we are already on the path of decarbonisation.”

“The sector agrees with the environmental measures that contribute to achieving this goal,” he added, “and we are willing to assume an extra cost to the extent that they contribute to the decarbonisation of the sector.”

Gándara did however warn that the measures could have an “impact on the tourism sector,” something he considers “an economic pillar for Spain.”

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TRAVEL NEWS

EXPLAINED: The new tourism tax in Spain’s Valencia region

Spain’s Valencian Community has become the latest territory to introduce a tourism tax for holidaymakers staying in all types of accommodation in the region. Here’s how much extra it will cost tourists and why it’s a controversial measure.

EXPLAINED: The new tourism tax in Spain’s Valencia region

What’s the Valencia region’s new tourism tax?

On Thursday November 24th, Valencia’s regional parliament approved a tourism tax that’s been in the pipeline for years.

It will come into force in the popular coastal region at the end of 2023 or early 2024. 

The tourism tax will be applied to all types of tourism accommodation in the Valencia region, from hotels to campsites, hostels, country houses, tourist apartments and docked boats and yachts. Holidaymakers arriving on cruise ships will also pay.

Tourists will pay between 50 cents and €2 per night and per person depending on the type of accommodation they choose, for a maximum of seven nights.

That means that a couple spending a week at a five or four-star hotel in Valencia will pay €28 more on average as a result of the tourism tax.

People with a disability level of 66 percent or above, under-16s, guests on Spain’s pensioner Imserso scheme and people under 30 staying at hostels are among those who will not be charged extra to incorporate the tax.

Even though it’s called a tourism tax, residents of the Valencia region will also have to pay it if they stay at short-term accommodation in their territory.

The levy will be compulsory but individual municipalities in the region of 5 million inhabitants will be able to decide whether to apply it to their tourism accommodation or not. 

Left-wing coalition party Compromís described the tourism tax as a “small contribution” for holidaymakers to pay.

Why has the tourism tax been introduced and why is it controversial?

The legislation states that all the proceeds be reinvested into the sustainable development of the tourism sector of La Comunitat Valenciana, which is home to Alicante, Benidorm and other popular tourist spots on the Costa Blanca. 

Such funds would partly go to addressing the issue of a lack of affordable and available housing for locals in popular tourism spots.

“I prefer that tourists pay more rather than see Valencians paying more in taxes,” Valencia city’s left-wing mayor Joan Ribó said last July about the fact that the large volume of holidaymakers in the city puts extra pressure on municipal resources, from cleaning to security.

“I’ve been to cities with a tourism tax and I haven’t considered not going because of it”.

But the measure doesn’t have the support of all of Valencia’s main political parties, with 51 votes in favour and 46 against in Thursday’s vote.

Hoteliers and hospitality associations are also against the tax, seeing it as a stumbling block on their way to recovery after the losses incurred since the pandemic.

Even regional tourism secretary Francesc Colomer said that a report by Alicante University had found that in the medium term the tourism tax would not be appropriate to introduce.

That same report covered the potential difficulty of implementing this tax and the problems it could cause, as many tour operators may look for new destinations where this tax is not required.

Where else are there tourism taxes?

Two other regions in Spain already have a tourism tax in place: Catalonia since 2012 and the Balearic Islands since 2016. 

Tourists in Catalonia pay between €0.60 and €3.50 extra a night, whereas in Mallorca, Menorca, Ibiza and Formentera it’s usually €3 per night and per person.

Tourism taxes are also applied in other European countries such as the Czech Republic, Switzerland, Slovenia and Slovakia, where a fixed price is applied regardless of the type of accommodation.

However, in cities with large volumes of tourists such as Amsterdam, Berlin or Vienna the tourist pays a percentage (7, 5 and 3 percent respectively) on the amount they pay per night for their accommodation.

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