Tallinn has reached a critical point with the amount of summer tourists and the introduction of a tourist tax should be seriously considered to support the Old Town's infrastructure, Deputy Mayor Aivar Riisalu said on Wednesday.
Riisalu said about 650,000 cruise tourists visited Tallinn this summer, which is 30,000 more than last year. This year there were four such days, when there were over 10,000 tourists in the Old Town of Tallinn, last year there were two.
According to Riisalu, the number of tourists in the Old Town has reached a critical level, as there is no infrastructure in place to serve such a large number of people. As an example, he mentioned that 150,000 visits went to the city's information tourism point this summer, and most visitors wanted to know where they could find a public bathroom.
"If this year's growth was seven percent, our poor town will be reaching its limit. The question is whether we can still serve such a large number of people. The biggest problem is usually the lack of toilets in Tallinn," Riisalu told added that the problem continued this summer.
Riisalu pointed out that a year ago, Mikhail Kõlvart, then chairman of the city council, raised the issue of introducing a tourism tax.
"I would rather call it a tourist tax. It is time for us (the city - ed.) To discuss with the relevant stakeholders about introducing a tourist tax and then to ask the state for permission," Riisalu said.
He said the tax could range from 50 cents to €1 and the money raised would go towards supporting the preservation of the Old Town. At the moment, statistics on spending a tourist in Tallinn on average €80.
"The tourist pressure on the city center is so great that it requires additional infrastructure investments. The Port of Tallinn already says that the number of cruises will increase next year," Riisalu noted.
Alternative mobility options should be considered to reduce the proportion of buses, he said. One idea is to build a network of walkways linking the city center and the harbor area;
Riisalu says that tourism is an extremely important business for Tallinn, but the city must keep it under control, but in such a way that no tourist should feel they are not welcome.
Not until 2021
Riisalu noted that under current legislation, the local government cannot impose a tourism tax on its own, only the parliament can do so. Meaning that it will not be introduced in 2020 and in 2021 at the earliest.
He said it is not in the city's best interests to introduce new taxes, but the current situation leaves little room for other options.
Editor: Helen Wright