Destination Focus

Tourist taxes and flight subsidies

German holidaymakers will have to pay a new tourist tax on Majorca this summer but could benefit from flight subsidies to Kenya.

Majorca holidaymakers have a choice of more hotels this winter and will have to pay less 'eco-tax' next summer than first feared. Efforts to extend the season are paying off with more hotels open during winter 2015/16. According to the Majorcan hoteliers association, there will be 12% more beds available in the first quarter of 2016, including 61,000 beds in January which amounts to 30% of the island's total capacity. In March, this figure will rise to 110,000 beds, representing 53% of overall capacity. In parallel, 43 hotels on the Playa de Palma will use the winter break for renovations with investments of €307 million scheduled until May 2016.

Meanwhile, the Balearic regional government is due to pass the controversial eco-tax for holidaymakers on Friday but has made various concessions following protests by hoteliers. The tax will be imposed on visitors aged 16 or more from May 1, not for 14+, while the tax will be halved from the 10th day on holiday. In addition, the off-season discount of 50% will apply from November 1 to April 30, instead of until March 31. The basic tariff will be €2 per adult per day for 4- and 5-star hotels, with lower rates for lower-grade hotels, holiday apartments, cruise ships, campsites and other accommodation.

Meanwhile, Kenya is introducing charter flight subsidies to boost international visitor numbers after a 10% drop to 628,000 in the first ten months of 2015. German tourist numbers slumped by 26% to just 39,000 over the same period.

The government is investing the equivalent of €10 million in financial subsidies for charter flights to support the tourism industry, especially in coastal regions. Airlines flying to Mombasa and Malindi will receive US$30 per passenger and will not have to pay landing charges from this month onwards, on condition that 80% of passengers have the two airports as their destination and that the flights are maintained for two years. Tourism minister Najib Balalal stressed that the security situation in the country has improved and urged airlines to resume flights to Kenya.

Across the Atlantic, US authorities are optimistic about another good year for tourism from Germany despite the continuing high dollar exchange rate. Brand USA chief Chris Thompson said: “That has not influenced tourism from Germany so far. At worst, the length of the trips will change.” Brand USA will promote the country’s national parks this year, which are celebrating their 100th anniversary. Thompson added: “Germans know the USA very well but there are still plenty of undiscovered destinations.”