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Following Zurich and Rome, Saigon wants to tax overnight tourists

By Vi Vu   October 12, 2017 | 03:24 pm GMT+7
Following Zurich and Rome, Saigon wants to tax overnight tourists
Visitors kiss on Bui Vien walking street in downtown Saigon. Photo by VnExpress/Quynh Tran

The city wants to establish its own tourism development fund by charging visitors $1 per night.

Saigon’s tourism department has asked the city’s government to approve a tourism tax of $1 per night for all visitors using accommodation in the city, a move that would mirror a simlar fee imposed in some top European destinations.

The proposal was filed last month but only revealed to local media on Wednesday.

The department said the new charge for overnight tourists would provide the city with more funds for promotional campaigns and staff training.

Tourism officials said the request follows the revised Tourism Law which will take force next January and includes a new national tourism development fund that will draw cash from the state budget, visa fees and entrance tickets.

They said Saigon should have a similar fund of its own.

However, the city’s proposal is at odds with the national law because the latter has rejected the tourism ministry’s proposal to collect an extra fee from foreign tourists who stay in local hotels. Lawmakers argued that there are no legal grounds to impose a surcharge on foreigners, while industry insiders described the proposed fee as “discriminatory”.

Saigon’s proposal has at least avoided the discrimination label by not specifying any nationality just yet.

To back up its proposal, the tourism department also pointed to long-standing tourist taxes in Italy and Switzerland.

Many cities in Europe have been charging overnight visitors a certain fee, which is usually included in the final hotel bill. Rome charges up to 7 euros ($8.3) a night while Zürich and other Swiss cities charge nearly $3 on average.

Tourists visiting Amsterdam are currently taxed 5 percent of their room rate, but the city has plans to increase the charge to a fixed amount of 10 euros ($12) plus a percentage of the hotel bill. The city’s councilors said they want to squeeze out low-spending tourists and reclaim the city for its residents, The Guardian reported.

Closer to Vietnam, Malaysia also decided to impose a tax of RM10 ($2.37) per night last summer for all foreign tourists, a move that has sparked concerns about drawing tourists to more remote states such as Sabah and Sarawak.

Similar concerns have not been voiced over the proposal for Saigon, but some people have said that the fee would certainly hit arrivals to the city, which has been hailed one of the best places in the region for budget travelers.

Saigon is among the top tourist attractions in Vietnam, being home to many historical sites and the country's most vibrant commercial center.

The southern megacity drew 5.2 million foreign visitors and 21.8 million Vietnamese last year, both up 10 percent from the year before. Its tourism sector raked in VND103 trillion ($4.5 billion) that same year, a 9 percent increase against 2015, according to the city’s figures.