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Time to decongest San Sebastian with new tourist tax? 

One of the most famous holiday destinations in Spain wants to introduce its own tourist tax as the controversial daily charge appears to be showing signs of the “domino effect” across the country.

The Basque region of Gipuzkoa and its capital of San Sebastián is the latest district to accept the advice of the Spanish Government which is in favour of a tourist tax but has decided to leave it to individual locations to make the final decision.

Gipuzkoa is Spain’s smallest province, covering just 760 square miles, but attracts over one million holidaymakers a year because of its stunning scenery, miles of walks alongside the Cantabrian Sea and the Bay of Biscay and its location only 12 miles from the French border. San Sebastian has gained international recognition through a series of events, including a film festival, and currently boasts some of the top restaurants in the world.

Visitor numbers have grown to a record level for the last seven years in succession but Gipuzkoa feels it is time to try and limit the numbers and ask tourists to make a contribution back into the environment.

“It’s time to decongest San Sebastian,” said a council spokesman.

The so-called eco or tourist tax is being defended as “the best way to distribute the wealth that tourism brings.”

The charge has to be approved by the Basque Parliament but it is contained in a report which details the way ahead for the region, together with deseasonalisation to achieve better occupancy throughout the entire year.

The strategy has taken 13 months to draw up and has been passed by Gizpuzkoa’s General Council.

Provincial deputy of culture and tourism, Denis Itxaso said they were committed to the ecotax so that the public money could be used “to improve the competitive of the destination” and “achieve the objective of sustainable tourism”.

Other Spanish resorts are also talking about introducing a tourist tax but the common thread is a call for most of the money to stay WITHIN the resorts and not benefit the region as a whole.

Barcelona and the Balearics already charge holidaymakers a nightly rate but other hotspots like the British favourite, Benidorm aren’t in favour. There is currently no such charge in the Canaries.