The Taxes Hitting Hotels Across the World - Next it's Berlin. By Louise Osborne ~ Weekly Exclusive - Global Views On Recent Trends Monday, 16th December 2013
Exclusive Feature: Money, money, money, that's what Berlin's state government was salivating over as they passed a new tax set to bring in more than €25 million per year for Germany's 'poor but sexy' capital.
But instead of taxing the residents living in the German city, this is a tax aimed at tourists – a 5% levy that hotel owners must pay to Berlin's finance office from Jan. 1, 2014, and a penalty likely to be passed on to visitors keen to take in the top attractions.
Germany's hotel association, the DEHOGA, has slammed the decision, calling it unfair, nonsensical, highly bureaucratic and "just not right," according to a German travel publication. However, politicians say they just want to ensure tourists are paying towards the sites they want to see.
"We want to make sure that tourists are also contributing to Berlin remaining attractive," said Berlin's Finance Senator Ulrich Nußbaum, according to a July article in Germany's leading news magazine, Der Spiegel.
With the decision, the capital city is following the footsteps of many German cities before it – Hamburg and Lübeck in the north of the country already have such taxes, with Hamburg charging visitors fees from 50 cents to €5 per night. Cologne, a city in the west, tourists must pay 5% per night for their beds.
But it is not a phenomenon that is limited to Germany, and is actually one that has been increasing as local governments struggle with budget cuts and try to find a way to make up their losses.
Tourists are already an essential source of funds for cities across the world, from London to Paris, New York to Cape Town. The bed tax, for some cities, is just another way to bring in cash – from a source that is already well-tapped.
And politicians say they want the taxes to go toward paying for the same attractions that are pulling people in.
At least that was the justification for implementing a bed charge in Venice in 2011 where officials decided to follow in the footsteps of cities such as Florence and charge people on a scale depending on the star rating of the hotel and the number of nights they planned to stay.
Meanwhile, according to an article in the New York Times, taxes in US cities are used to finance the development or expansion of convention centers and used in the marketing of destinations.
Still, some cities have shied away from implementing such taxes. In Scotland's capital, Edinburgh, local government officials rejected plans for a bed tax. Although they had hoped it would raise in the region of£10 million for the city, it was dropped for being too unpopular.
Even so, with government cuts in spending and austerity measures continuing, bed taxes are likely to be a trend that just keeps on going, spreading from city to city. But what if these taxes drive tourists away? Not likely when the canals of Venice and the fjords of Norway beckon.
Photo credit: Maritim Hotel Group
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Louise Osborne is a correspondent and editor based in Berlin, Germany. She began her career working at regional newspapers in the UK and now works with journalists across the globe as part of international journalism organization, Associated Reporters Abroad (ARA). Living abroad for the second time, she continues to be fascinated by places both near and far, and boards a plane eagerly, as often as she can.
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