Thank you for visiting. Now pay up.
That's the message Alaska voters sent tourists last week when they approved a measure for the state to levy $50 on every visitor arriving by cruise ship.
And other popular destinations may soon follow suit with a so-called head tax targeting vacationers.
"For many governments, tourism taxes have become a cash cow," says Steve Loucks of Carlson Wagonlit travel agency.
Travelers already pay heavy taxes for everything from hotel rooms to car rentals, Loucks says. Some destinations charge per-person departure taxes that catch tourists as they leave airports.
Loucks says travelers are easy targets for such taxes because they don't vote in the place they visit. "It's the ultimate in taxation without representation."
Other destinations that are considering a head tax:
•Venice. Mayor Massimo Cacciari floated the idea last month in an interview with Italian newsweekly Panorama. He didn't name a price, but the Venice in Peril Fund has been calling for a 10 euro per-person fee, or about $13.
•Aeolian Islands. The popular getaway off Italy, which includes Elba, where Napoleon lived in exile, plans a 5 euro per-person fee next year to help reduce crowding.
The $50 Alaska charge comes on top of existing $7-per-person taxes levied on cruises by two popular port towns, Juneau and Ketchikan.
"The tax could put the region out of some cruisers' price range," says Melissa Baldwin, associate editor of cruisecritic.com. "A family of four is looking at an increase of $200 before they even set foot on the ship."
The ballot measure, which passed with 52% of the vote and takes effect in 90 days, called for other taxes that could cost cruise visitors even more if lines pass the levies on to customers. Among them: a 33% tax on casino profits while ships are in Alaska and a corporate tax.
The measure calls for revenue to go to port and harbor facilities, to enhance the safety and efficiency of interstate commerce, and for ships' compliance with new environmental regulations.
Cruise lines have hinted they'll pass the costs on to passengers.
Analyst Robin Farley of UBS, an investment firm, says Carnival, for example, could face $75 million a year in extra costs if they don't. The company operates 16 of the 27 major ships in Alaskan waters under Holland America, Princess and Carnival brands.
Baldwin says it's too soon to tell whether the new levy will affect bookings. Cruisers account for the majority of visitors to Alaska.
Already, the topic is lighting up the message boards at cruisecritic.com. Some members say they'll go elsewhere, Baldwin says. Others "say $50 is only fair to compensate for the burden the cruise industry places on Alaska."