Concerns raised over plans for registration and licensing of tourism accommodation
Chris Haines, ICNN Senedd reporter
Concerns have been raised about plans to introduce statutory registration and licensing for all tourism accommodation in Wales.
Dawn Bowden, the deputy minister responsible for tourism, announced details of the scheme during a statement in the Senedd on Tuesday January 9.
She explained that the reforms will be implemented in phases over three years, starting with statutory registration, then a visitor levy followed by licensing based on quality standards.
Ms Bowden said ministers will bring forward proposed legislation by the end of 2024.
She told the Senedd: “The growth of online booking platforms has brought many benefits, such as new routes to market and increased consumer choice.
“However, we are aware of concerns about the impact that some short-term lets can have on housing stock in communities and about inconsistent compliance with legal requirements.”
Tom Giffard, the Conservatives’ shadow deputy minister, raised concerns about red tape, saying a similar scheme in Scotland proved complicated and burdensome.
Mr Giffard asked how the Welsh Government will avoid the same pitfalls as other countries.
He said: “In France, licensing schemes made it prohibitively expensive to operate as a small accommodation provider, and in Italy the number of businesses and visitors decreased.”
He told the Senedd that registration is the first step towards a tourism tax, “just one of a slew of anti-tourism measures introduced by the Welsh Government”.
Mr Giffard said: “One in seven people in Wales are employed in the tourism and hospitality sector, and a tax on tourism is a tax on jobs.”
Mabon ap Gwynfor, for Plaid Cymru, welcomed the proposals which form part of his party’s cooperation agreement with the Welsh Government.
He said the reforms are key to plans to tackle the housing crisis and over-tourism, raising the importance of standardising the rules between private rentals and holiday lets.
Sam Rowlands, who chairs the cross-party group on tourism, questioned the decision to move to statutory registration rather than a voluntary scheme.
The Conservative MS for North Wales raised concerns that the Welsh Government will seek to become the arbiter of whether a business can operate.
Mr Rowlands said: “The quality of accommodation can be subjective and varies from person to person depending on the experience they want, so I have some significant concerns.
“And linked to that, you don’t choose to do that for other types of businesses. You don’t go into barber shops and check the quality of the haircuts.”
Carolyn Thomas welcomed plans for registration and licensing amid an increasing loss of long-term private rental accommodation to short-term holiday lets, such as Airbnb.
Asked by the Labour MS for North Wales whether a national body or councils will administer the scheme, Ms Bowden said no decision has been made.
Darren Millar raised concerns about a one-size-fits-all approach to quality standards.
The Clwyd West MS said: “The quality of accommodation in a tent is going to be different to the standard and quality of a four-star hotel on the Llandudno seafront, for example.
“A holiday caravan is a completely different experience again and may still be safe, but obviously is not going to meet the same quality standards.”
The Tory called for exemptions for accommodation such as chapels on pilgrimage routes, as well as assurances that the proposals will not negatively impact caravan owners.
Ms Bowden stressed that all visitor accommodation will come within the scope of reforms but personal accommodation would not be covered unless rented out.
She said: “The basic premise is that visitor accommodation must meet certain safety standards. Every accommodation must be registered. Certain basic safety standards need to be applied for any accommodation that is rented out for short-term lets.”
On exempt accommodation, she told the chamber decisions have yet to be made as it is subject to ongoing discussions with the sector.
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