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Edinburgh joins the ranks of cities looking to offset the cost of tourism
Posted on 12/02/2019

SocietyUnited Kingdom

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Overtourism may have reached critical mass, and destinations around the world are taking steps to protect themselves.

A little bit goes a long way

A little bit goes a long way

Edinburgh is the latest city to put a price tag on tourism, with a tax of 2 per night on all temporary rental accomodations excluding campsites. The tax would only be valid for seven consecutive nights, meaning that visitors on extended stays could only be charged a maximum of 14.

Although it may not seem like much, the tax could bring the city up to 14.6 million per year, which would go toward strengthening tourism infrastructure and alleviating any damage done by too many tourists. The Scottish Parliament has not yet approved the bill, and it likely won't do so until next year.

Reaching a crisis point

Reaching a crisis point

Cities around the world such as Amsterdam and Barcelona have been heightening restrictions on tourists over the past couple of years, and even sights such as Machu Picchu have begun to limit the number visitors per day. Whole countries have even added tourism taxes to their legislative agendas.

While the tourism sector has always been growing, it's increased sharply in the past decade. Reasons for this spike include everything from the proliferation of low-cost airlines to cheaper accomodation prices thanks to Airbnb, but there's no doubt that national and local governments played an active role in attracting visitors. A turning point occured for leisure travel between 2016 and 2018. Tourism had always been viewed as a net good for any city, town or country. But the effects of gentrification, damaged infrastructure, and overcrowding have become impossible to ignore on a grand scale over the past few years.

New restrictions

New restrictions

To combat a rapidly rising cost of living and damage done to the city by tourists, Barcelona has famously stopped approving permits for new hotels, and requires all vacation rental owners to apply for more stringent rental licenses. The fragile, sinking city of Venice charges around 10 pounds to any visitors arriving via cruise ship, whether they spend three hours or three nights in the city. The red-roofed gem of Croatia, Dubrovnik, started limiting its number of daily visitors to 8,000 in 2017. And it isn't just Europe. Destinations worldwide saw a spike in tourists, some of which, such as Maya Bay Beach on Koh Phi Phi Leh Island in Thailand, were forced to close entirely due to the destruction caused by overcrowding.

In 2019, Edinburgh isn't the only destination heeding the warnings coming from overcrowded destinations. This year, Japan, New Zealand, and Croatia have all rolled out new country-wide restrictions on tourism. Japan's "sayonara" or departure tax is a 6.70 tarif that's automatically included in any ticket to the country, whether by boat or plane. Croatia is raising its daily tourist tax to from 8 to 10 HRK, which is about 1.18. A new border tax of NZ$35 will be imposed on long-distance travelers to New Zealand, excluding visitors from Australia and the Pacific Islands.

It remains to be seen if these restrictions are enough to combat the rising tides of mass tourism. For places like Maya Bay, recovery is slow and the only solution was permanent closure. But the rising concern over too many tourists doesn't have to spell an end to world travel. Traveling during the off-season, avoiding all-inclusive packaged tours, staying off the well-worn tourist routes, and frequenting locally-owned hotels, businesses and restaurants all help to relieve the stress that mass tourism puts on local economies. For the globetrotter conscious of their impact, just taking a few minutes of extra research to find locally-sourced options for that dream trip can make a difference.

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