Sector boss attacks ‘regressive’ tourism tax following consultation announcement
A consultation on a tourism tax has been attacked by the sector.
North Wales Tourism chief executive Jim Jones hit out at the “regressive” move, after the Welsh Government and Plaid Cymru announced that a consultation on proposals for a local visitor levy 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.
But according to Jim Jones it would be an “absolute disaster”, which would “damage and industry that is already reeling” from the pandemic.
He argued that the tourism sector is already “already heavily overtaxed” in Wales.
Tourism provides a substantial economic contribution to Wales with tourism-related expenditure reaching more than £5bn annually in 2019.
Jim Jones told the Daily Post said: “A tax on tourism would be a hugely regressive step that would damage and industry that is already reeling after being battered by the pandemic.
“It also makes no sense strategically because the tourism and hospitality sector is well-placed to lead North Wales on the path to economic recovery so this would be a hindrance in terms of our regional revival.
“We speak to businesses every day and they are totally opposed to the idea of a tourism tax.
“The sector is already heavily overtaxed as it is and on top of everything else loans taken during the pandemic have to be repaid.
“Local authorities already receive millions of pounds of compensation by Welsh Government to deal with the influx of visitors via the enhanced population grant – the greater the number of visitor, the more money they receive, I think we need to establish where this money is spent first.
“We would oppose the introduction of a tourism tax at anytime but to consider that now would be an absolute disaster.
“It would be counter productive and deter visitors from coming here which would in turn damage our economic performance.”
Rebecca Evans, Minister for Finance and Local Government, said: “Visitor levies are a common feature in tourist destinations internationally. They are an opportunity for visitors to make an investment in local infrastructure and services, which in turn make tourism a success.
“Without such a levy, local communities face an undue burden to fund local services and provisions on which tourists rely. From keeping the beaches and pavements clean, through to maintaining local parks, toilets and footpaths – the critical infrastructure that supports tourism should be supported by all those that rely on it.
“The introduction and subsequent use of such a levy would enable destinations in Wales to be enjoyed for generations to come and encourage a more sustainable approach to tourism.”
She added: “The levy would be proportionate by design, and powers to raise the levy would be discretionary for local authorities. This would enable decisions to be taken locally, according to the needs of our communities.
“The levy will apply to those paying to stay overnight within a local authority area. Opportunities for wider contributions on the cost impact of other types of visitor activities on local infrastructure will be offered as part of the consultation on the levy.”
Designated Member Cefin Campbell MS said: “Giving local people the power to introduce a tourism levy will make a difference to communities across the country, many of which attract a significant number of tourists. It will give local people and their representatives more power and resources to invest and deliver in their areas.
“Councils will be able to ask tourists to contribute in a small way to the areas they are visiting and the local services they use.
“This measure will help support a sustainable rather than an extractive tourism sector, which will help bring the greatest benefit to communities and the local economy.
“Such levies – often known as tourism taxes – are commonplace in countries across Europe and beyond. This is about mutual respect between our communities and the visitors they welcome. It is a new policy which is the fruit of a Welsh co-operative spirit.”