Interfering Politicians

By | Category: Travel rumblings

What is there about politicians?
Sometimes despite the brains, the degrees, the experience they have, they act like buffoons living in a strange world uninhabited by real life.
Tourism has huge benefits to the world. It encourages travel which breaks down parochial barriers and helps people understand other cultures. It brings revenue and employment to parts of the world that cry out for support. It can diversify us from living in huge urban soulless complexes sometimes called cities and it relieves the strain of everyday life. That’s one heck of an achievement and provided we manage tourism, in essence it is laudable.
But politicians fiddle. They want to do things though why is sometimes beyond me. Some of them would be better digging ditches. Here are a few examples that exasperate me.
In Cologne in Germany, they have introduced a 5% culture tax which is payable by hotel guests. As ETOA, (European Tour Operators Association) has pointed out, no one knows how to collect it, nor how it is calculated or even if there are exemptions. What of guest houses and campsites? Are they included? And will the money be spent on culture or drift into a general city taxation pot? Who has calculated how many people will be put off and stay outside the city and come in on the efficient and cheapish train network?
Staying in Germany a new green tax has been brought in as from 1st of January 2011. The airport at Frankfurt-am-Hahn (the one Ryanair uses that is miles from the city of Frankfurt) has suspended expansion because it wants to see if passengers will be deterred. And the German government has admitted that this carbon tax will go straight to reduce the deficit rather than emissions or into making anything greener
Take Air Passenger Duty in the UK. Next month it rises yet again although the government has said it will review it. It’s payable by each passenger and the thought was it would be a carbon tax. Guess where the money goes? It is so astronomic that some countries have made strong representations to the government about its perceived unfairness. If anything, it discriminates against those countries furthest away. Countries like Holland have removed it because of the impact it has had on tourism because visitors have to pay it on the return part of their tickets. So might we get fewer visitors? Very probably, at least in the short term until people get used to the higher fares. But tourism is competitive. If it is cheaper to go elsewhere a lot of people will. So the money we thought we might earn from incoming visitors will go elsewhere. But some people are already developing ways around paying as much APD as they should.
A large amount of the package holiday industry is based on cheap holidays and people in Germany and the Scandinavian countries pay more for much the same thing than we do.
In the USA they have introduced a $10 tax on visitors applying for ESTA (you can’t enter the place without it as regular readers will know) and the politicians say that will fund the tourism promotions for the country. At a meeting of UK tour operators there were loud complaints about the impact this would have on bookings to the US. But at Pow Wow, the big travel show that is geared to persuading overseas companies to send people to the USA it was looked on as the greatest thing since sliced bread. It’s only $10, that won’t be noticed it’s said and, after a little while, just like APD, maybe it won’t be. But add it all up together and holidays and travel are getting more expensive.
Both in Europe and the US, the holiday has become a must not a luxury. But there were strong signs that people cut back. Just as they switch gas or electricity companies because one offers a better deal the same will happen with countries and cities.
But the other thing about politicians is that most of them only listen at election time. Tourism is a cash cow that can be milked time and time again they think. Sometimes though, the cows give less if they aren’t looked after as every farmer will tell you.

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