Swansea Council says it doesn’t plan to introduce tourism tax as bosses raise concerns
Richard Youle, local democracy reporter
Swansea Council doesn’t plan to introduce a controversial tourism tax, its leader has signalled.
Cllr Rob Stewart said a levy would only be considered if there was strong local support.
The Welsh Government in consulting on a scheme that would give councils powers to introduce what it is calling a ‘visitor levy’, which it said would help fund visitor facilities and tourism improvements.
Many tourism groups oppose the levy, which ministers envisage as a small additional charge applying to stays in overnight, commercially-let visitor accommodation. Such levies are in force in a number of cities and countries around the world.
Tom Beynon, the owner of Three Cliffs Holiday Park, Gower, said the cost-of-living crisis was resulting in people spending less money on holidays, and that a levy could be the difference between a family choosing Wales as opposed to somewhere like Devon.
“It just seems madness to me,” he said. “If it was a UK-wide policy, it would be different.”
Mr Beynon said Wales’s tourism sector had made positive strides over the last few years and that efforts should be made to continue this.
“I think Wales is really moving in the right direction,” he said. “More people are coming here every year – that is resulting in extra money coming to areas, and tourism business are reinvesting it.”
Mr Beynon said he had spent money on heated toilet blocks and glamping pods, and that the campsite and caravan park employed 15 full-time staff at peak times.
“The last five years especially have been very, very busy,” he said. “We are positive about the future.”
Any levy, he said, would be “cause for concern”. He added: “My view is shared by the majority in Gower.”
Mr Beynon also questioned whether money raised from such a scheme would be ring-fenced for visitor improvements, given the severe financial pressures facing councils.
A new visitor levy would, if approved in the future by the Senedd, require new legislation. The consultation ends on December 13 and is being done as part of Welsh Labour’s co-operation agreement with Plaid Cymru.
Gower MS Rebecca Evans, who is Minister for Finance and Local Government, said when the consultation was launched last month: “Our intention with the levy is to bring about a sense of shared responsibility between residents and visitors, to protect, and invest in, our local areas.
“By asking visitors – whether they have travelled from within Wales or from further afield – to make a small contribution towards maintaining and enhancing the place they are visiting, we will encourage a more sustainable approach for tourism.”
Cllr Stewart told the Local Democracy Reporting Service that Swansea Council’s position was that it had no plans to introduce a levy.
And in response to Mr Beynon’s concerns, he said: “We would only consider its introduction if there was significant local support. And any funds raised would absolutely be ring-fenced and deployed on local tourism priorities.”
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