Could one of Norway’s most popular destinations bring in a tax on tourists?

Norwegian region Lofoten, known for its spectacular fjord and mountain scenery, could introduce a toll for tourist entry, according to a report.

lofoten, Norway
Norwegian region Lofoten wants to trial a toll charge for tourists. Photo by Deogratias Saidi on Unsplash

The municipality in Lofoten is considering introducing a tax on tourists in a bid to help ease the cost of littering and pollution caused by visitors as well as wear on trails, broadcaster NRK reports.

Several hundred thousand tourists visit the picturesque region every year, making tourism a key revenue source for the area. But their effect on the natural environment is also significant, according to the report.

Proposals to pass some of the maintenance and cleaning costs on to tourists have appeared several times in recent years, most recently in the political agreement on which the government was formed in October last year.

In the agreement, Lofoten was given permission to introduce a tourism tax as part of a pilot project for what was termed “visitor contributions” (besøksbidrag).

Tourism board Destination Lofoten and UNESCO world heritage region the West Norwegian Fjords both want to take part in such a pilot project, NRK writes.

Suggestions for how the tax might be levied include using registration (license) plate technology on all vehicles that enter the region. The owner of the vehicle would receive a tax invoice in the post.

The money would then be paid into a regional foundation with a board and clear rules on how it may be spent.

Line Renate Samuelsen, head of tourism with Destination Lofoten, told NRK she did not see such an arrangement as a “tourist tax”.

“We don’t think this is a tax. You are paying to use something that is designed, built and maintained. (The money is) so people that come here can have as good a time as possible, and to protect nature that is very vulnerable,” she said.

Similar models are already in use elsewhere in Europe and across the world, she said.

“Many, including some industry organisations, do not want this to be something like a charge on a bill from a hotel or similar business. But we have now tried to put a twist on the model and are trying to charge the user directly through this payment,” she said.

The Ministry of Trade, Industry and Fisheries said it is waiting to ascertain which municipalities would take part in pilot projects.

“The ministry is now making assessments of the work which must be done prior to the selection of one or more pilot projects. The work is high priority,” it told NRK.

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EU nations agree to open borders to vaccinated travellers from outside bloc

The 27 member states of the European Union announced on Wednesday they had agreed to allow fully vaccinated travellers to enter the bloc, according to reports.

EU nations agree to open borders to vaccinated travellers from outside bloc

EU ambassadors for the 27 member states reached an agreement on Wednesday to allow vaccinated holidaymakers from outside the EU, including the UK, to visit the bloc, reports say.

Ambassadors recommended at a meeting on Wednesday that rules should be changed to allow non-essential visits into the EU by travellers who are fully vaccinated – in other words both doses of a two-dose vaccine or one in the case of the Johnson & Johnson injection.

However on the unresolved question of how will visitors be able to prove they have been vaccinated, the EU said it will be up to individual member states to decide what evidence they will accept.

The Local is currently trying to determine what proof will be needed in the countries we cover.

The EU currently has a small “safe list” of countries from where travellers are allowed in for non-essential reasons due to its infection rates. The list includes Australia, New Zealand and Israel. The UK is expected to be formally added to this list on Friday although some EU countries, including France, have already jumped ahead and allowed non-essential travel from the UK.

Travellers from these countries are permitted to enter the bloc even if they are not vaccinated, but in general must show evidence of a recent negative test.

The EU is currently working on a “Covid-19 certificate” which will be allow travellers to prove they are either vaccinated, recovered from Covid or have recently tested negative.

Brussels is in talks with other countries like the US and the UK to determine whether visitors from these countries can also use the EU’s Covid-19 certificate, which should be available on a smartphone app sometime in June.

READ ALSO: How will the EU’s ‘Covid-19 certificate’ work for travel in Europe?

Meanwhile, Germany has already eased most quarantine requirements after travel for fully vaccinated people although there are still currently restrictions for people entering the country.

Earlier this month the EU Commission president Ursula von der Leyen revealed the bloc’s plan “to revive the tourism industry and rekindle cross-border friendships”.

“We propose to welcome again vaccinated visitors and those from countries with a good health situation. But if variants emerge we have to act fast: we propose an EU emergency brake mechanism,” said Von der Leyen.

The EU has been trying to push a coordinated response across the 27 member states to allow for tourist travel from non-EU countries, which was effectively banned in March last year.

However border policy is decided on by each member state and finding common ground in this area has proved difficult.

There has been increasing pressure to open up from certain European countries such as Greece and Spain which depend heavily on tourism.

“The Commission proposes to allow entry to the EU for non-essential reasons not only for all persons coming from countries with a good epidemiological situation but also all people who have received the last recommended dose of an EU-authorised vaccine,” said the EU Commission statement.

The vaccines licensed for use in the EU so far are Pfizer BioNTech, Moderna, AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson.

The Commission says growing evidence that vaccination helps to break transmission chains supports the argument to reopen borders to tourists from non-EU countries.

The EU parliament has backed the Commission’s plan for “EU Covid-19 certificates” that travellers would need to prove they are either fully vaccinated, recovered from Covid and therefore have antibodies or tested negative before travel.

This is what the EU Commission has proposed:

  • Member States should allow travel into the EU of those people who have received, at least 14 days before arrival, the last recommended dose of a vaccine having received marketing authorisation in the EU (Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca, Johnson & Johnson).
  •  If Member States decide to waive the requirements to present a negative PCR test and/or to undergo quarantine for vaccinated persons on their territory, they should also waive such requirements for vaccinated travellers from outside the EU.
  • Member States could consider setting up a portal allowing travellers to ask for the recognition of a vaccination certificate issued by a non-EU country as reliable proof of vaccination.
  • Children who are excluded from vaccination should be able to travel with their vaccinated parents if they have a negative PCR COVID-19 test taken at the earliest 72 hours before arrival area.

Several EU member states have already announced their own plans for reopening, including France which proposes allowing all vaccinated tourists from outside the EU from June 9th, and Spain which is talking to the UK government directly about access for British tourists this summer.