Another popular vacation destination is charging tourist an arrival tax

What was initially floated about as a joke (“we should start charging every new tourist a special tax”) is becoming an increasingly common practice in many parts of the world under names varying from “arrival tax” to “sustainability fee.” 

The latter is particularly common for smaller countries that are seeing rapid environmental changes brought about by mass tourism — the island nation of Maldives adds a fee ranging from $3 to $6 a night to the cost of one’s hotel bill (the lower range is for visitors who choose to stay at an eco-friendly guest house) while Iceland has been getting closer and closer to introducing an arrival fee that would be redirected toward protecting the nature around the fjords, hot springs and national parks to which tourists flock.

Related: Domino effect: A tourist tax is coming to another country many want to visit

The latest popular tourist destination to charge new arrivals this type of fee is the Caribbean island and overseas Netherlands territory of Aruba. As of July 1, the new Sustainability Fee costs $20 and will be collected when one fills out the online electronic authorization needed to come to the country.

Tourism Authority: ‘This fee will support a number of projects’

“This fee will support a number of projects aimed at enhancing and improving sustainability efforts on the island,” Aruba’s Tourism Authority wrote in a post on Facebook  (META) .

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The fee is exempt for children under the age of 8 coming to Aruba with their families, those coming to Aruba more than once in a calendar year, and those who are registered as residents on the island. Visitors who have had residency at some point in the last eight years are also not required to pay the fee alongside those who are visiting the island as part of a cruise ship stop or otherwise coming in for less than 24 hours.

Prior to the introduction of the latest fee, Aruba had already been charging arrivals a $3 environmental tax tacked on to the cost of one’s accommodation. 

Locals and tourists weigh in: ‘I hope it’s used for picking up litter’

In the comments underneath the post announcing the fee, locals and frequent visitors to Aruba expressed the wish to see the gained funds go toward controlling homeless dog and cat populations that have become an increasing problem on beaches amid tourists luring them in with food scraps.

“I’ve been going for years and I am honestly tired of seeing all these homeless animals [while] the ones who visit us in the beaches get watered and fed,” writes Kim Leary Oppelt. “The ones behind the scenes with illnesses and injuries and a million ticks on them, they need help.”

While some complained about the increasing “commercialization” of Aruba and feared that it would drive away all but the wealthiest tourists, others expressed problems expressed by those with knowledge of the island. These included left-behind garbage in many public parks and beaches that local authorities have been struggling to keep up with. Aruba had a permanent population of just over 106,455 while welcoming over 1.23 million outside visitors in 2023.

“I hope it’s used towards picking up litter,” wrote Jennifer Rust Vail. “I picked up a lot while at baby beach.”

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