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Tourism: just an economic resource?

Di Antonio Caneva, 21 Maggio 2015

Sometimes we have the feeling that tourism is regarded as a cash cow, a business that has no other purpose except to satisfy the ever growing appetites of local administrations.
Let me give you a couple of examples.
I always feel a little uneasy when I buy a water-bus ticket in Venice, and I have to pay 4-5 times as much as residents do. One of the European Union’s characteristics is that all citizens should be able to enjoy the same services at the same price; now a Belgian tourist has turned to the European Court of Justice about this arbitrary tax levied on travellers. I am convinced (and I hope) that his claim will be upheld.
But it’s not only the Venetians who play “smart alecks”; even straight and strict Germany is devising a system to have non-residents pay a toll on the otherwise free motorways. In order to avoid sanctions, they are thinking of a simple though sophisticated approach. All motorists, whether residents of foreigners, would pay a toll, but Germans would be able to deduct it from their vehicle road tax (so they would pay nothing for using the motorways). Talk about southern countries’ imagination!
Also colliding with freedom of movement is the growing and relentless imposition of tourist taxes, which were abolished in past decades only to be massively reintroduced later.
We forget that the effects of tourism do not only impact the economy, but also the environment and the possibility of cultural exchange and mutual understanding; if we sometimes complain about a lack of understanding among nations, greater attention for tourism (not only in a utilitarian way) would certainly be a good beginning.

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