Tourist hotspots are charging new fees in an attempt at solving overtourism

There’s thousands of places throughout the world that act as tourism hotspots — the Faubourg Saint-Germain district of Paris, the pyramid region in Giza and the massive sandstone hills in Uluru, Australia, to name a few — which cause an influx of temporary visitors and boost the local economy.

But when a place becomes too much of a popular destination, it can become overrun with tourists and in turn, harm the way of life for the locals, negatively impact the environment and cause more strain on the infrastructure than normal. A report from 2018 found that services aimed at locals, like public transit, local roads, museums and attractions suffer under increased tourist numbers and because of foreign apps like Uber and Airbnb, tourists are moving from the city into the suburbs and disrupting locals. To make matters worse, major ports including Shanghai, Barcelona, Marseille and Amsterdam see an influx of cruise ships throughout the year — filled with people who can eat and sleep on the ship, therefore providing little to no positive impact on the economy.

That’s the reason tourist taxes are popping up all over the world, which can be collected as part of a visa application fee, as a fee that is paid either upon arrival or departure at the airport, or as part of an airline or train ticket. Traditionally these fees would be used mainly towards attracting more tourism to the region, but new fees popping up are being used to regulate and control the number of visitors. Venice already had an overnight visitor tax but is planning to extend this fee to all visitors to the city, while Edinburgh is hoping to charge £2 per visitor, per night for up to seven nights and Bali is set to charge $10 for each visitor, which will go towards environmental and cultural preservation efforts.

All these new “tourist charges” are an acknowledgement by local authorities who are no realizing that relying too much on tourism isn’t sustainable. The fee is an attempt at changing the demographic of visitors, reports Quartz — instead of “low-impact, low-value” ones (people who spend no money), places are beginning to target “low-impact, high-value” travellers (those who spend several nights in the city and eat at local restaurants).

Amsterdam is a tourist destination with more than 17 million visitors in 2016, compared to only a population of 850,000. 📸:  Flickr

Amsterdam is a tourist destination with more than 17 million visitors in 2016, compared to only a population of 850,000. 📸: Flickr

These “low-value” tourists are especially evident in Amsterdam, where more than 300,000 passengers arrive, according to Passenger Terminal Amsterdam. The city will see at least 154 cruise ships docking at its port in 2019 but, since it introduced a €8 ($12 CAD) day fee for tourists on Jan. 1, MSC Cruises and Cruise & Maritime Voyages won’t be included in those docking there. Instead, they’ll dock in Rotterdam and give passengers the opportunity to visit Amsterdam if they would like to. Introducing a fee like this opens up capacity for more “high-value” tourists who will pour more into the economy, a much needed action for a city of 850,000 that saw more than 17 million visitors in 2016, a quart of which stayed in budget hotels.

The New Zealand government is also introducing a fee on international visitors (with some restrictions, including the exclusion of Australian residents) of NZ$35 ($32 CAD) which it hopes will help ease the impact that the tourism industry has on the country. It’s expected to bring in NZ$57 to NZ$80 million ($51.5 to $72.5 million CAD) which will be split 50-50 between improving tourism infrastructure and conservation efforts, according to the NZ government’s website:

“The Government is implementing an International Visitor Conservation and Tourism Levy (IVL) to ensure our international visitors contribute to the infrastructure they use and help protect the natural environment they enjoy.”

Japan’s tourist fee was implemented on Jan. 7 and sees tourists paying a ¥1,000 ($12 CAD) fee upon exiting the country. 📸:  Flickr

Japan’s tourist fee was implemented on Jan. 7 and sees tourists paying a ¥1,000 ($12 CAD) fee upon exiting the country. 📸: Flickr

And even visitors to Japan are required to pay a ¥1,000 ($12 CAD) fee, payable upon leaving the country, which will be put towards improvements to tourist attractions and adding more international signage throughout the country. With the tourism industry growing by 33 percent between 2011 and 2015, the fee is expected to bring in ¥43 billion ($511 million CAD) annually.

Even though this is just a small sample of the dozens of places introducing tourist fees, it’s important to remember that the issue of overtourism isn’t completely the fault of the actual tourist — the adoption of Airbnb, dropping flight prices and a failure to stagger or cap the industry’s growth are all to blame, too.