Rome to increase tourist tax in Holy Year to ease coach congestion

The city is again considering raising taxes for visitors during its jubilee year in 2016. Each coach load of tourists will this December be charged a daily rate of ‘ 1,000 to enter the city centre to see sights such as the Vatican, a 500 per cent rise on the current price of a coach permit ( ‘ 200). Tour operators and travel agents are objecting to the extra cost, which is expected to be passed onto visitors.

This is in addition to a higher tax on accommodation that tourists already have to pay, which has doubled on last year. The European Tourism Association (ETOA) said it is extremely concerned by the plans. Imposing a fivefold increase on the existing ‘ 200 daily permit is out of all proportion,” it said in a statement. “It threatens prepaid contracts for travel in 2016 and beyond and is yet another cost that is making Rome an expensive and unpredictable destination. The association calculated that, under these proposals, a visitor in a group of 40 people staying in a 4 star hotel would be paying ‘ 33 in local taxes a night, when the accommodation tax and coach tax are shared between the group. This figure is based on paying ‘ 8 a night in a 4* hotel (in tax) and ‘ 25 a night for the coach.

It was suggested that agents might be forced to reconsider how much time is allocated to Rome1 in travel itineraries. Tom Jenkins, CEO of ETOA said, “…the behaviour seems vicious and irrational, with no regard to practicality or planning.

“What will these visitors receive in return for this tax increase? That this was announced in the same month as the bid for the 2024 Olympic Games shows that the aspirations of Rome and the reality of their organisational capability live in separate worlds. Rome’s Holy Year is a year of mercy announced by Pope Francis, which should bring thousands of pilgrims to the city.

With this in mind, the plan might well ease the pressure on Rome s already crowded streets, our expert writer in Italy, Anne Hanley, said.

While a five-fold hike in charges for driving a coach into Rome s city centre may sound like highway robbery to tour operators, I think most Romans will feel relief, hoping that a deterrent of this magnitude might help keep coach numbers down a little, she said.

Cynics will argue that it s just a way for the cash-strapped city to make a fast buck: authorities themselves are predicting that the rate increase will bring in an extra ‘ 54 million during the 2016 Holy Year.

But Romans who deal daily with the extra congestion caused by buses cruising at photo-snapping speed past monuments and stopping to disgorge their disorientated cargoes at key junctions view things differently, she argued.

Rome To Increase Tourist Tax In Holy Year To Ease Coach CongestionRome’s Holy Year is a year of mercy announced by Pope Francis, which should bring thousands of pilgrims to the city

In 2014, 90,000 coaches clogged up the streets; even with the price rise, the city is predicting there will be 170,000 for the Holy Year. The plan is far from perfect however.

What s lacking in city proposals to date is a coherent strategic plan for what will inevitably be a nightmare in the narrow, already-clogged streets of Rome, she added. There are massive out-of-centre car parks but no mass transit system to get visitors from these to major sights.

There s no link from Rome s main train stations to the little station at St Peter s. The ‘ 12 million earmarked this week by the city council for transport upgrades is clearly too little, much too late.

If only we could look upon this Jubilee Holy Year windfall as providing the wherewithal to get Rome s transit system into shape to deal better with any future major event such as the 2024 Olympics which the city is bidding for.

But given the Eternal City s track record, no one is holding their breath.


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