Simon Calder: Venice - city of culture, cuisine and tax collection

The man who pays his way

Tourists exploit the world. We demand the right to delve ever deeper into the fascinating fabric of landscapes, cities and treasures, enjoying free access to everything from Tate Modern to the wilderness of Patagonia. But now authorities around the world are taking advantage of our hunger to make the most of the planet, and travellers are increasingly being seen as a soft touch.

In the olden days, when changing £500 turned you into an instant lire millionaire, the Italians sought to lure holidaymakers from the UK by offering a Byzantine system of petrol coupons. Through the AA, British motorists could obtain fuel at a discount in certain parts of Italy, which at least allowed us a feeling of financial superiority despite our painfully obvious driving inferiority.

How the world changes. Starting this week, Venice now charges an imposta di soggiorno of up to €10 per room per night. The tourist tax (or, if you prefer, pound of flesh) applies on an arcane scale, The levy depends on the quality of accommodation and the age of the travellerl an aesthete might suggest that the age of the accommodation and the quality of the traveller would be a fairer basis.

pppThe Venetians evidently took encouragement from the Romans and the Florentines, who encountered little obvious resistance to their hotel taxes introduced this year.

Guests at the Hotel Danieli are being told that the €5 per person per night levy is "to finance tourism, the maintenance of cultural heritage sites and the environment as well as public services". Anyone who can afford the €635 double room rate being charged last night for a standard room in the exquisite converted palazzi adjacent to St Mark's Square is unlikely to baulk at the extra €10.

But Ted Wake, who runs the upmarket specialist Kirker Holidays, says: "As a PR exercise, the officials who run these elegant Italian cities have scored 0/10. If you speak privately to hoteliers, they tend to despair – and then mention how frustrating Italian bureaucracy can be."

The red tape for accommodation providers in Venice will increase – and you can expect the administration costs to be passed on to guests. On the 108 nights in the year classed as "low season", the owner of a budget campsite will be obliged to collect, and pass on, the princely sum of three euro cents from each adult guest (plus an extra 1.5c from under-16s).

No doubt the discerning travellers to whom Mr Wake caters will still travel to Venice, Florence and Rome to, in his words, "marvel at the astonishing art, architecture and culture created by previous brilliant generations of Italians – as well as the sublime cuisine and great sense of style in 21st-century Italy". Yet British travellers may already be railing against irritating taxes: relative to Italy, business to Spain is 15 per cent up. The authorities in Madrid and the regions are taking a longer view, seeking to attract extra visitors rather than finding new ways to fleece existing travellers.

The latest destination to dip deeper into holidaymakers' pockets is Jamaica, which this week doubled its "Tourist Enhancement Fee"; from October onwards all tickets to the island will cost $10 more. The odd £6.50 will surely not deter travellers from exploring the beaches and mountains of this beautiful island. But further protests by Jamaica's tourism minister against the unfairness of Britain's Air Passenger Duty – which penalises passengers to the Caribbean – may fall on deaf ears.

Desert Island Discounts? Not for us Brits

The Maldives government is so pleased with the new 3.5 per cent "Tourism Goods and Services Tax" that it plans to raise it to 6 per cent next year, and to 10 per cent from 2013.

"Prices in the Maldives are going up at the same time the UK traveller is looking for price reductions," says David Kevan, of the upmarket travel business Chic Locations. As visitors to the Indian Ocean archipelago quickly discover, they comprise a captive market due to the policy restricting each island to a single resort. One prospective client said: "I know I can afford the holiday, but I'm less sure I can afford to enjoy it." He went to Mauritius instead.

"At the top end, you are looking at rates of at least £350 per night," says Mr Kevan. "Add main meals at £40 each per person, then the tax, and you need a large budget to be happy."

UK holidaymakers have always enjoyed formidable commercial muscle, thanks to our sheer numbers and inclination to explore the world. Are we now being outbid to the Maldives by other nations? David Kevan believes so.

"Arrivals from Russia and India are growing, and new air routes from Singapore and Malaysia are aimed at the upscale China market, who are selecting hotels at the very top end."

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Ashdown Group: Print Designer - High Wycombe - Permanent £28K

    £25000 - £28000 per annum + 24 days holiday, bonus, etc.: Ashdown Group: Print...

    Recruitment Genius: Business Travel Consultant

    £20000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: With offices in London, Manches...

    Recruitment Genius: Customer and Brand Manager

    £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Customer and Brand Manager required for ...

    Ashdown Group: Systems Administrator

    £25000 - £35000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Systems Administrator A...

    Day In a Page

    Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

    Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

    But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
    Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

    Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

    Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
    Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

    Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

    Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
    Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

    Britain's 24-hour culture

    With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
    Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

    The addictive nature of Diplomacy

    Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
    8 best children's clocks

    Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

    Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
    Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

    How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

    Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
    Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

    'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

    In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
    Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

    The Arab Spring reversed

    Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
    King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

    Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

    Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
    Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

    Who is Oliver Bonas?

    It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
    Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

    Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

    However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
    60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

    60 years of Scalextric

    Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
    Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

    Why are we addicted to theme parks?

    Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
    Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

    Iran is opening up again to tourists

    After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there