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Lofoten Wants to Introduce Tourist Tax

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Authorities in Norway's Lofoten want tourists to pay for the privilege of visiting their islands. Here's what you need to know about the tourist tax proposals.

Tourists flock to the Lofoten Islands for the breathtaking scenery and hiking opportunities. Many spend a lot of money while they're there, but they leave more behind that just economic benefit.

A northern lights display above the Lofoten Islands of Norway

In the last decade, Lofoten has become overwhelmed. Car parking is at a premium and unaware tourists often leave their cars in inappropriate places, causing problems for locals.

When the tourists leave, they leave behind damaged hiking trails, increasing amounts of rubbish and even human feces.

It poses a big problem for the municipalities in the Lofoten Islands. Because so few people live there, their budgets are small. Yet they have to deal with the impact of vast numbers of tourists. The maths simply doesn't add up.

Tourist tax back on the agenda

Now, local authorities want to find a way of charging tourists a fee for visiting the region. This is normal practice in many European vacation hotspots, but isn't done in Norway.

Hikers admiring the Lofoten Islands of Northern Norway
Hikers admiring the Lofoten scenery.

This is far from the first time a tourism payment has been suggested. Norway's government has proposed piloting such schemes in the UNESCO World Heritage site of the west Norwegian fjords, which covers the Geirangerfjord and Nærøyfjord.

“In Lofoten, we have worked for a long time to put in place such a contribution,” Line Renate Samuelsen told NRK. She works as head of tourism at Destination Lofoten.

How a tourist tax might work

She wants Lofoten to be part of any government pilot together with the fjord region. Many tourist tax programs overseas require accommodation providers to collect the fee, but many in Norway are against such a process.

Lofoten bosses instead propose something different. They want to scan the number plates of all cars that come into the region, and issue an invoice based on that. Fees on public transport tickets will also be considered to collect fees from non-drivers.

Lofoten scenic route sign.
The Lofoten national scenic route.

Samuelsen added that local residents and essential traffic would be exempt from such fees. The income would be managed locally in a regional fund, with clear guidelines on what the money can be used for.

Not a done deal

Not everyone in the tourism industry backs such a concept. The Norwegian Hospitality Association (NHO Reiseliv) is the largest employers and trade organisation for the hospitality sector in Norway. They are more positive towards a tax on pollution, including cars and cruise ships.

“A good solution is to use user fees from, for example, parking, to finance the need for parking spaces, renovations and toilets. These are solutions that exist today,” said NHO Reiseliv's Kristin Krohn Devold.

She is also unsure that Destination Lofoten will be able to introduce such a tourist tax: “The Ministry of Transport and Communications and the government that decide what is legal to tax.”

The Ministry confirmed that it is looking at a tourist tax pilot as a high priority. A number of destinations have applied to be included in the program, including Lofoten. However, no decision has yet been made.

About David Nikel

Originally from the UK, David now lives in Trondheim and was the original founder of Life in Norway back in 2011. He now works as a professional writer on all things Scandinavia.

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