CostaBravaTouristGuide.com — The autonomous Spanish community of Catalonia, whose Costa Brava is one of Spain’s most popular tourist destinations, started to levy a tourist tax on November 1, 2012.
The tax applies to any facility where tourists stay overnight — from campgrounds and youths hostel to hotels and cruise ships.
Tourist apartments and private houses rented to tourists are subject to the charges as well.
Hotel operators and others in the travel industry initially were upset, citing anything from the unfounded fear that tourists will decide to vacation elsewhere to the cost of updating hotel management software packages.
But the Generalitat de Catalunya points out that most countries in Europe and many throughout the world have long had similar measures in place, and that income derived from the tourist tax will result in more tourists visiting the region.
Under the terms of a bill approved in March 2012, the tax fees are used to finance the newly founded Tourism Development Fund, which produces promotion campaigns for tourism in Catalonia.
Income earmarked to promote tourism
The Government promotes Catalonia as a prime tourist destination throughout Spain, Europe, and the rest of the world.
In addition the tax is used for “tourism-related infrastructure” — which includes anything from the upkeep of seaside boulevards or the rebuilding of beaches after they have been damaged in storms, to payment of salaries for extra police man hours during such events as Blanes’ famous annual international fireworks festival.
When it was introduced, the Catalan Government expected the tax to raise €50 million per year. In 2014, €40 million was raised. The money is split between the Catalan Tourism Agency and local tourism boards and town halls.
How much tourist tax does Catalonia charge?
Not much, really. In fact, the Government says that for 96% of tourist who visit Catalonia the new tax will add only 1% to their total spending bill.
You’ll pay between € 0,45 to € 2,25 per person, per night — and only for the first seven nights. 
The amount depends on the type of establishment you are staying at, as well as whether you are staying in Barcelona or the rest of the country.
|Type of Establishment||Barcelona||Rest of Catalonia|
|Cruise ships, 5-star, Luxury Hotels||€ 2,25||€ 2,25|
|4-star, 4-star Superior Hotels||€ 1,10||€ 0,90|
|Campings, Apartements, Villas, Others||€ 0,65||€ 0,45|
Important additional information:
- The tourist tax is charged per person, per night
- The tax is charged only for the first seven nights of your stay
- People aged 16 and younger are not charged tourist tax
- Passengers of cruise ships that stay in Barcelona less than 12 hours are exempted
- The tourist tax is subject to a 10% VAT (Value Added Tax; Spanish: IVA; Catalan: L’IVA) charge. (For example: 0.45 cents + 10% = rounded up to .50 cents)
In addition, if you are staying in Catalonia as a participant in a social program operated by the public administration of a European Union member state. (If you didn’t quite understand that, rest assured: it does not apply to you).
From time to time we hear from people who run into higher charges than those listed above, with some accommodations listing an additional ‘hotel tax’ as well.
However, according to the Generalitat de Catalunya — the Government of Catalonia — there are no additional tax charges (other than the normal 10% VAT over the entire bill) that apply to tourists.
How the tax is billed
If you have booked through a third-party, such as a tour operator that provides a holiday package including air travel and hotel fare, you should check whether or not the new tourist tax has been included in the total amount paid.
But regardless of whether you book or pay the hotel (or other establishment) direct or via a third party, the hotel is obligated to provide an invoice that presents a clear and separate breakdown of the amount of tax charged. (This doesn’t mean you may be charged twice. It simply means there must be a paper trail documenting that the tourist tax has been paid).
If the tourist tax was not already included in the payment you made to a third party, you will have to settle the bill at the hotel.
Note that the invoice is subject to the normal 10% VAT for hotel accommodation.
Other regions may follow
Thus far Catalonia is the only of Spain’s 17 autonomous regions that charges a tourist tax, but as the country’s economic crisis deepens other regions may soon follow its example.
Meanwhile, hotel associations say they have had no complaints from tourists, likely because most of the tourists come from countries that themselves charge such taxes.