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 Catalonia Tourist 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.
Indeed, the number of people traveling to Catalonia has increased every year. Last year the region welcomed 17.4 million foreign tourists — 3.7% more than in 2014.
This year got off to a strong start as well: 2.8 million foreign tourists arrived in Catalonia during the first quarter — an 8.3% increase compared to the same period in 2015.
Under the terms of a bill approved in March 2012, the tourism tax fees are used to finance the Tourism Development Fund, founded that year. It 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.
It would not be fair to expect local residents and businesses to bear all the costs related to the tourist industry. The tax is a small price to pay in exchange for clean beaches, well-maintained roads, and good facilities.
When it was introduced, the Catalan Government expected the tax to raise €50 million per year.
In 2015, €43.5 million was raised, a 5.5% increase in revenue from 2014 (€41). Since its inception in November, 2012, a total of €126 in tourism tax has been generated for Catalonia.
The revenue is split between the Catalan Tourism Agency, local tourism boards and town halls.
According to Jordi Baiget, of the Catalan Ministry for Business and Knowledge, the increase in 2015 is “parallel to the increase in tourists.” Last year hotels generated the largest amount: €34.3 million.
Tourist homes — ranging from apartments to villas — brought in €3.6 million, an increase of 38.6% or €1 million since 2014. This increase is largely due to new rules and regulations which, among other things, make it illegal to rent homes to tourists without permission.
“We now have more than 54,000 tourist homes we knew existed but were not regularised,” Baiget explains.
The Catalan government says 2015 saw widespread growth of tourism in most parts of Catalonia.
Incidentally, Barcelona generated €23 million in tax, more than half of the total amount raised in 2015.
Catalonia Tourist Tax: How Much?
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, Apartments, 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.
If your hotel charges higher rates under the guise of ‘tourist tax’ — or charges you an additional ‘hotel-‘ or ‘bed tax’ — you are being overcharged.
If you believe that is the case, stay calm and polite. Do, however, visit the Ajuntament (City Hall), a police station, or the local tourist office and ask for their help.
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 (Spanish: IVA; Catalan: L’IVA) for hotel accommodation.
How people have responded
Upon learning about the Catalonia Tourist Tax, some people are indignant. See, for instance, some of the comments below this article. In most cases, the people complaining the loudest themselves live in countries were the visitors tax is significantly higher.
The vast majority of people realize the fees do not amount to much, and they understand what the money is used for.
Hotel associations say they have had notably few complaints from tourists. And as shown above, tourism numbers are way up.
By the way: Some people use the term ‘Hotel tax.’ Others refer to ‘Tourism tax.’ The Catalan government’s Ministry of Business and Knowledge uses the term ‘Tourist tax.’ These terms all refer to the same thing.
Other regions of Spain
Until recently Catalonia was the only of Spain’s 17 autonomous communities that charges a tourist tax.
Initially people thought that as the country’s economic crisis deepened other regions would follow Catalonia’s example. Instead, some communities (e.g. Andalusia, the Canary Islands, and Madrid) have actually ruled out such a scheme — for now. The success of Catalonia’s program may eventually inspire other regions to follow suit after all.
In fact, there are indications that Valencia, which includes such tourist hot spots at Benidorm and the Costa Blance, may introduce a tax in 2017.
Interestingly, the city of Barcelona, Catalonia’s capital, is actively considering charging day trippers — visitors who do not stay overnight — a tourist tax. According to the proposal, this would affect cruise ship passengers and people on organized tours. The reason behind such a fee is that Barcelona is so overrun by tourists that it is bursting at the seems.
The ever increasing number of visitors have Barcelona locals complaining about anything from antisocial behavior to narrow streets being blocked by large groups. As in many other popular cities, authentic shops have made room for souvenir outlets, rent prices have been going through the roof due to the Airbnb effect, and it is increasingly difficult to find enough room at the beach to put down your town.
The Balaeric islands — an autonomous community that includes the popular holiday destinations of Majorca, Menorca and Ibiza — have introduced a tourist tax effective July 1, 2016.
According to the islands’ vice-president and tourism minister, Biel Barceló the revenue will enable the government “to maintain and improve the quality of tourism on the Balearics.”
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This article was first published in November 8, 2012. We take care in keeping it up-to-date.