January 27, 2011
Rome Adds Hotel Tax

"Pay to Stay" is new motto at Rome hotels
Rome rang in the New Year 2011 by instituting a new overnight accommodation tax on tourist services in the Eternal City. Starting on January 1st, Rome became the first Italian city to levy this type of tax which comes to €3 per person/per night for four- and five-star hotels, €2 per person/per night for lower starred hotels and B&Bs and €1 per person/per night for campgrounds.

The fee will be levied for a maximum of ten nights, and only children under 11 years of age or those staying in youth hostels are exempt from this tax that is to be paid by the hotel guest at check out. Rome's city council said it introduced the tax "to generate additional revenue for the improvement of services and infrastructure offered to the tourist." It follows a succession of new taxes announced in Europe in the past eight months as countries try to avoid Greece’s near default last spring.

Of Rome's nearly 50,000 hotel rooms, more than half are four or five stars and, therefore, will be charging the highest amount (there is already a 10% state tax that is typically included in the advertised room rate). This extra expense is “irrelevant for luxury travelers, while it may have a different impact on three-star hotels and low-budget tourists,” commented Luca Magni, head of branding and communications for the Baglioni Hotels Group.

The tax is to be paid at check-out
Gianni Alemanno, the mayor of Rome, noted at the press conference announcing the new tax that many other cities already have similar levies. New York applies a 14.75% tax on hotel bills, in addition to a daily "occupancy tax" of around $3.50. Amsterdam charges 5% and Barcelona 7%, while visitors to France pay a hotel tax of 20 cents to €1.50 per person, per day depending on the number of stars the hotel has. It is expected that now that Rome has broken the ice, other Italian cities like Florence and Venice will follow suit by instituting their own tax. Italy's prime minister has already given their respective mayors – Matteo Renzi for Florence and Giorgio Orsoni in Venice – the go-ahead to charge a €1 per day "tourist ticket" to off-set the effects of mass tourism in these two popular destinations.

Posts on Trip Advisor’s Rome Forum web page are generally in favor of the new tax as long as the money actually goes to fund useful things like restoring important historical structures and art. Dubbed the world’s biggest open air museum, an estimated 8.86 million tourists visited Rome in 2009, more than three times the number of people who live there (2.8 million). This means that the number of Roman taxpayers isn't up to the job of maintaining the necessary services and infrastructure to meet the extra strain put on them by international tourism.

But regarding the restoration of the Eternal City's numerous historical monuments, for which Trip Advisor website users hoped the new hotel tax would pay, it is "Shoe King" Diego Della Valle, founder and CEO of Tod's, who has offered to foot the bill. He recently made a generous offer to pay the entire 25 million ($33 million) euro cost of the restoration of the Colosseum. Although Della Valle is a native of Le Marche, he said it will be an honor for his firm to restore the Colosseum, calling it "one of the symbols of Italy best known in the world." The complete overhaul of the Colosseum, which is expected to take two years, will begin as soon as the city of Rome has all the details in place. During the restoration, the monument will remain open to the public.

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