PARIS, June 29 French ministers on Sunday
attacked proposals by lawmakers to increase taxes on hotel stays
and called for them to be scrapped as they could undermine plans
to boost the tourism sector.
France, whose economy came to a standstill in the first
quarter, has made tourism one of its priorities. The sector
accounts for more than 7 percent of the country's gross domestic
product and employs two million people directly or indirectly.
An amendment to France's draft budget this week raised
maximum hotel taxes to 8 euros ($11) from 1.50 euros previously
in a bid to bring them more into line with other European cities
including Berlin, Rome and Brussels.
Another of the parliamentary proposals - which have yet to
be approved - would create an additional tax of 2 euros per
night for hotels in the Ile-de-France region, which includes
Paris, to fund public transport.
"We want the Parliament to reconsider its decision," French
Economy Minister Arnaud Montebourg told BFMTV channel.
In a statement, the foreign affairs ministry called the tax
increases dangerous for the promotion of tourism and said
Foreign Affairs Minister Laurent Fabius considered it
"imperative" that the proposed increases be scrapped.
With 83 million international visitors in 2012, France was
ranked the world's number one tourist destination ahead of the
United States and Spain, according to the United Nations World
Tourism Organisation (UNWTO). But it only ranked third in terms
of receipts behind the same two countries at $54 billion.
Sebastien Bazin, chief executive of Europe's largest hotel
group Accor, told Journal du Dimanche weekly the new
taxes would severely cut hotel margins and penalize tourism.
"These decisions are unjust, unsustainable and dangerous,"
he said in a tribune posted on the weekly's website on Saturday
"The impact on company margins and France as a touristic
destination will be very negative," he said.
The new 2-euro tax in Ile-de-France would amount to a loss
in earnings of 20 millions euros, Bazin said. The impact of a
rise in maximum city taxes would be calculated next week.
($1 = 0.7331 Euros)
(Reporting by Sybille de La Hamaide; Editing by Ralph Boulton)