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Optimal Commodity Taxes with Tourist Demand


  • Sinikka Hämäläinen

    () (Department of Economics, University of Tampere)


The existence of country-specific commodities that have to be bought and consumed locally plays an essential role in tourism. This paper discusses how optimal taxation rules are modified when the taxable goods include goods demanded by tourists. The main point is that tax rates can be manipulated to shift some of the tax burden from domestic residents onto tourists. There is indeed a reason why an optimum taxation approach is useful for tourism, as the goods are consumed inside the host country, and discrimination is difficult. This paper combines several scenarios where tourism may be relevant for optimal tax policy. It begins by considering the determinants of tourist demand. Then, the well-known optimal commodity tax rules are modified to include the effect of foreign demand. Tourists are assumed to trade at the same prices as domestic consumers, but to have zero welfare weight. Thus, the government must balance the desire to tax tourists with the deadweight loss suffered by its own residents. The government should raise some taxes, when tourism begins. Tourism-oriented goods with low price elasticities should bear the highest taxes. However, tourism-related pollution cannot be taxed at prohibitive rates or tourist revenue would be lost altogether. Possible extensions are introduced, for example competition among destination countries. Should tourism dependent countries that are geographical neighbours and substitutes have closely linked tax systems? What kind of tax policy is best when the tourist destinations serve as complements to each other?

Suggested Citation

  • Sinikka Hämäläinen, 2004. "Optimal Commodity Taxes with Tourist Demand," Baltic Journal of Economics, Baltic International Centre for Economic Policy Studies, vol. 4(2), pages 25-38, July.
  • Handle: RePEc:bic:journl:v:4:y:2004:i:2:p:25-38

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Chow, Peter C. Y., 1987. "Causality between export growth and industrial development : Empirial evidence from the NICs," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 26(1), pages 55-63, June.
    2. De Gregorio, Jose, 1992. "The effects of inflation on economic growth : Lessons from Latin America," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 36(2-3), pages 417-425, April.
    3. De Gregorio, Jose, 1992. "Economic growth in Latin America," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 39(1), pages 59-84, July.
    4. Alfaro, Laura & Chanda, Areendam & Kalemli-Ozcan, Sebnem & Sayek, Selin, 2004. "FDI and economic growth: the role of local financial markets," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 64(1), pages 89-112, October.
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    More about this item


    tourism; optimal; taxation;

    JEL classification:

    • H - Public Economics
    • J - Labor and Demographic Economics


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