Economy Minister accuses Tories of ‘scaremongering’ on tourism tax
The Economy Minister has accused the Tories of “scaremongering” about plans for a tourism tax.
Vaughan Gething accused Conservative MS Darren Millar of “excitedly” making “world-ending predictions” about the announcement of a consultation on proposals for a local visitor levy which will launch in the autumn.
Labour and Plaid say the measure, which forms part of their cooperation agreement, would raise revenue for local authorities enabling them to manage services and infrastructure which makes tourism a success.
However, Millar, who is the Senedd member for Clwyd West, argued that such a tax would “decimate” the tourism “industry and cause price-sensitive tourists” to “jump to places like Blackpool” instead of visiting Wales.
During a debate in the Senedd, Vaughan Gething said: “We are working with a wide range of partners to understand the potential economic impact of a visitor levy in Wales. It will be for local authorities to decide if they raise a levy on visitors. They will be empowered in local authorities to make their own judgment with support from the Welsh Government.”
Darren Millar said: “I know you want to pass the buck to local authorities in respect of this tax, but the reality is that it’s your Welsh Labour Government that is setting the road ahead and actually facilitating the introduction of a tax which could decimate the economy of north Wales.
“Tourism, to our nation, is worth billions, and tens of thousands of people across the north Wales region are employed in tourism jobs and, in addition, many shops in our town centres, businesses like cafes, restaurants, and everything else survive on the annual income which comes from visitors’ pockets.
“Do you accept that a tourism tax being introduced in north Wales could decimate the industry and cause price-sensitive tourists to, instead of visiting Colwyn Bay, Towyn and Kinmel Bay, Rhyl, Prestatyn, Llandudno and the other wonderful resorts that north Wales has to offer, that it could cause them to hop, skip and jump to places like Blackpool, Morecambe and elsewhere where their economies will boom and ours will suffer as a result?”
The Minister replied: “I know that Darren Millar regularly likes to get excited—”
‘I certainly do’
Darren Millar replied: “I certainly do.”
The Minister said: “[Continues.]—and be fast and free with phrases, but look, I think he might want to pause and take some time on the subs bench while this issue is being decided by the grown ups.
“You see, when you look across Europe and north America, when you look at where a levy is a regular part of the tourism industry, you don’t find anything to support the scaremongering and world-ending predictions that he excitedly makes.
“The idea that this will decimate the visitor economy is without any kind of evidential basis whatsoever. If you look at what we’re discussing, it is how local authorities could understand what they could do so that communities see a benefit from the return of visitors, but also some of the challenges that that brings as well, and how they would decide, with the powers that they would have, whether they wanted to introduce a levy, and if so, on what basis.
“Now, that’s the consultation we’re having. If there is any actual evidence, rather than hyperbole, from the Member and his colleagues that a levy would have any kind of detrimental impact, we’d want to see that as part of the consultation before we make choices.
“I believe that we can do something to invest in our visitor economy, and we have a good basis, because we have such a wonderful range of visitor attractions for people to come here to Wales, and I actually have very good and optimistic hopes built on evidence for the future of our visitor economy, regardless of the eventual outcomes of the visitor levy in different parts of Wales.”
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