A pilgrim taking a break before heading into Santiago de Compostela, Source: Depositphotos

Spain’s favourite pilgrim destination plans to levy a tourist tax

Spain’s favourite pilgrim destination plans to levy a tourist tax

This is part of the ‘conscious tourism’ approach promised by Santiago de Compostela’s new mayor

Exactly one month ago, Goretti Sanmartin was sworn in as Santiago de Compostela’s first female mayor. The writer and politician from the regionalist Galician Nationalist Bloc ran on a platform that promised to do something about the rampant tourism overcrowding in her city and now she has announced that she will seek to introduce a tourist tax.

Santiago de Compostela is one of the most renowned pilgrimage sites in the Catholic world, as it is the final destination on the St. James’ Way (Camino de Santiago), a network of millennial routes through France and Spain that see heavy pedestrian and cycling traffic. The goal of the pilgrimage is to reach Santiago de Compostela (and its marvellous cathedral) and get a Camino Certificate verifying that you indeed have walked at least 100 kilometres necessary to qualify.

The thing is with the explosion in mass tourism, these days the route is done more for leisure and health purposes than for purely religious and spiritual ones. That has resulted in Santiago de Compostela experiencing the so-called overtourism effect.

I want this municipality to stop being just a tourist destination and a theme park,” the new mayor said, according to Europa Press. In her view, the harms of tourism have started to outweigh the benefits as more and more locals are finding it hard to find affordable and decent housing in the central area.

Any details on the tax?

Sanmartín explained that a tax is necessary to "finance some of the expenses" of tourists and pointed out that she wants "planned and controlled growth, with an offer based on authenticity and heritage."

However, the details of the proposed fee have not been finalized.

According to Euronews, the idea for the tax in the Galician city originated with the previous mayor Xosé Sánchez Bugallo. The current one is simply planning to build on this and put it into action.

A regional tax could be introduced in 2025. It would be charged as a nightly fee by the hotels and is likely to cost between 0.50 and 2.50 euros, depending on the type of accommodation.

That would be nothing in the Spanish context, as tourist taxes are already present in other popular cities of the Iberian country. Barcelona, for instance, has been charging such a fee since 2012, which has been increasing since then – expected to reach 3.25 euros per night, next year.



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