Matthew Theunissen is a business reporter

Visitor tax a growing global trend

Auckland Mayor Phil Goff outlined a plan to implement a visitor levy on hotels and accommodation. Photo / 123rf
Auckland Mayor Phil Goff outlined a plan to implement a visitor levy on hotels and accommodation. Photo / 123rf

Auckland would be joining a global trend if it started charging a levy to tourists staying in the city.

In his first budget proposal, newly-elected Auckland Mayor Phil Goff yesterday outlined a plan to implement a visitor levy on hotels and accommodation, a scheme which he said could raise between $20 million and $30 million.

Bedroom taxes, rental car taxes, meal taxes, arrival and departure taxes are just some of the ways that central and local governments elsewhere are taking advantage of the tourist dollar.

According to the Economist, governments love tourist taxes because the burden of paying them falls to out-of-towners, and they can't vote.

Just yesterday, the Australian Government introduced a 15 per cent "backpacker tax" on working holiday visitors, which tourism operators fear could drive more tourists across the ditch to New Zealand.

In the United States, international visitors have to pay $14 upon entering the country, $10 of which goes to its Corporation for Travel Promotion.

Some US cities manage to hit travelers at every opportunity with a raft of additional taxes.
According to Forbes, if someone visited Chicago and spent $360 per day - $146 on a hotel room, $129 on meals and $85 on a rental car - the city piles on an extra $56.90 in taxes, including America's highest car rental tax of $19.70.

New York has the country's highest hotel tax of an average of $26.50 per night, bringing its total tourist taxes to $53.61 per day.

Widely regarded as one of the world's most expensive tourist destinations, Italy introduced a swathe of local tourist taxes in 2011. Tassa di soggiorno vary across regions and hotel star ratings and, when combined with VAT, coach permits and parking fees, a standard 7-night tour of Italy can cost upwards of $106 per person in hotel taxes and coach fees.

One unusual model of tourist tax is Bhutan, where all visitors must pay $353 per person per day during peak season, with an additional $42 - $56 surcharge if you're in a group of two or less. This covers accommodation, transport, a guide, food and entry fees.

Goff's proposal has been met negatively by the country's tourism sector. Tourism Industry Aotearoa chief executive Chris Roberts said the council should be supporting tourism growth in Auckland, not trying to fleece the golden goose. Hospitality New Zealand spokeswoman Rachael Shadbolt told Newstalk ZB that it could very well put people off from coming here, even if it only works out to be a $6-10 surcharge.

- NZ Herald

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