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Hotels threaten legal action to stop VRSA tourist tax

Algarve’s hoteliers association (AHETA) vows it will do “whatever it takes, even go to court”, to stop Vila Real de Santo António’s plans to bring in a tourist tax, charging holidaymakers €1 for every night they spend in the borough.

“It is unacceptable,” Elidérico Viegas, the head of AHETA, told Correio da Manhã newspaper.

“These taxes are used to charge for a service, not to alleviate councils’ financial difficulties,” he said, stressing that “nobody knew” this decision was in the pipeline – even though it was apparently made available for public discussion.

Viegas maintains tourist taxes “shouldn’t be charged in small towns like VRSA”.

“They only make sense in capitals, where tourists stay for very short periods of time,” he explained, adding that hoteliers are now going to try and talk VRSA out of the idea.

If that doesn’t work, they won’t hesitate to “use judicial means to stop the tax”, he affirmed.

Meantime, VRSA’s PSD mayor Luís Gomes has defended the move, saying revenue will be channeled back into the municipality’s tourism sector.

“It’s not fair to have our residents paying for investments made in a specific sector (tourism), which thankfully has been very successful,” he said.

He gave the example of VRSA’s sports complex which costs around €3 million per year to manage and hosts the Mundialito children’s football tournament, which attracts thousands of people every year.

Gomes explained that VRSA hopes to make €800,000 per year from the tax.

The plan is to charge €1 per person, up to a maximum of seven nights. So no one will pay more than €7 per stay, even if they stay in VRSA “for three weeks”, the mayor explained. Children under 10 won’t be charged, while only 50% will be charged for children aged 11-13.
“The sum is insignificant when rooms are rented during the summer for €200,” Gomes said, adding that the tax “will certainly start to be charged before this summer”, though the council is still evaluating when will be the exact best time to bring it in.

The proposal for the tax was approved by VRSA’s municipal assembly, with PSD voting in favour and PS, CDU and BE giving it a firm ‘no’.

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