Spain’s tourism leaders have warned they could lose millions of British holidaymakers if the European Union introduces a tourist tax later this year.
The Spanish Tourism Board says it could pose a major problem for the country if the EU presses ahead with the charge, which would see non-EU visitors forced to pay seven euro. The rate, called the European Travel Information and Authorisation System (ETIAS), will be applied to those visiting the Schengen Area from November.
Describing the tax as a ‘threat’, the Tourism Board said it risked undermining Spain’s tourism sector during its first General Assembly of the year. In a statement after the meeting, the board said: ‘The Tourism Board is especially concerned about the impact of this tax on British tourism, our main issuing market with 18 million arrivals in 2019.
‘It must also be taken into account that the measure – if it goes ahead – will be added to the rest of local taxes that the tourist is already paying to visit certain European cities.’ Another concern raised by the assembly was over Lufthansa’s plan to convert the Rome Fiumicino airport into its new hub for intercontinental routes to Asia, America and Africa.
‘This move would undermine the Madrid Barajas hub, which currently concentrates air traffic with Latin America and, consequently, would decrease the relevance of the Spain brand,’ the Tourism Board said. Juan Molas, president of the Spanish Tourism Board, said: ‘We issue a warning in relation to these two alerts that seem to be going unnoticed, but that constitute two potential threats to the competitiveness of the Spanish tourism sector.’
The ETIAS will apply to visitors from visitors from 63 countries – including Britain – outside the European Union. It was first confirmed by the EU in August 2021. The scheme will be similar to the US’s Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) system – which allows citizens from 40 countries a 90-day visa-free stay.
Like the US system, the ETIAS will allow people visa-free entry for up to 90 days, during which visitors are not allowed to work or study, but can ‘engage in business and tourism activities,’ according to the Schengen visa info website.
The EU’s version will be valid for up to three years – and will count for multiple entries. Those under 18 and over 70 will be exempt from the fee. The website states visitors ‘can enter the Schengen member states as many times as you want, for as long as your ETIAS is valid, and you have not stayed more than 90 days in a 180-day period.