Tourism chiefs rally opposition to plans for a visitor levy before official consultation comes to an end
Tourism businesses are being urged to show their opposition to Welsh Government plans to introduce a visitors levy, before an online consultation on the proposals closes next Tuesday.
Organisation representing the tourism industry are also urging the Welsh Government to engage in closer communication with trade bodies and businesses over the plans for the levy and other changes planned for the sector.
The urgent call was made by Adrian Greason-Walker, Wales Tourism Alliance’s policy advocate and Val Hawkins, chief executive of Mid Wales Tourism, an independent organisation that represents nearly 600 tourism and hospitality businesses and organisations across Powys, Ceredigion and Southern Snowdonia.
The Government’s plans to give local authorities across Wales the power to introduce a discretionary visitor levy and proposals to change the threshold for self-catering accommodation for tax purposes and a proposed statutory licensing scheme for all visitor accommodation in Wales has drawn the opposition of a significant number of industry insiders over the past year.
Strength of feeling
Mr Greason-Walker appealed to tourism businesses to show the Welsh Government the strength of feeling that had been expressed to the WTA against the proposed visitor levy in their online responses.
“We have entered a far more economically challenging period than has been seen over the last 20 years,” he said. “The Welsh Government’s own Partial Regulatory Impact Assessment highlights the severe economic conditions that tourism businesses are currently facing.
“As we know from the very recent past, the economic tail of a recession is long and this time the effects of inflation and rising costs will only exacerbate the position.
“We have already asked if the Welsh Government will abandon the proposals if the majority of respondents to the consultation say they don’t want the tourism tax.”
He went on to say that it was also “deeply regrettable” that legitimate self-catering businesses were being caught up in the second homes issue.
“We will now see seismic changes to the way self-catering accommodation is assessed for property taxation in Wales,” he added.
The changes will see the number of days a self-catering property must be available to let in a year rise from 140 to 252 and the days it is actually let increase from 70 to 182.
Council tax premium
Local authorities will have the powers to triple the council tax premium to 300% for self-catering properties that do not meet the new criteria.
Opposition from WTA and others, including 400 responses from the industry, seemed to have been largely ignored by the Welsh Government, said Mr Greason-Walker
On the question of statutory licensing of all visitor accommodation, Mr Greason-Walker said the only way a visitor tax would work would be if local authorities were able to identify every tourism accommodation provider in their area.
A registration scheme, rather than a difficult to manage licensing scheme, would ensure a level playing field, although some local authorities were questioning whether enough tax would be raised to cover staffing costs.
Rowland Rees-Evans, MWT Cymru’s chairman, said he and others had questioned the Welsh Government about why it had not conducted a proper impact assessment on the tourism tax proposal, but there had been no answer.
Mrs Hawkins expressed concern about the wider impact of the Welsh Government’s new legislative proposals on town centres, shops, cafes and attractions whose income is topped up by visitor spend.
“These proposed changes could impact local jobs and future employment prospects for young people if they result in fewer visitors to Mid Wales,” she warned.
Rebecca Evans, Welsh Government Minister for Finance and Local Government and Cefin Campbell, Plaid Cymru Designated Member, jointly launched the government’s consultation in September.
Writing for Nation.Cymru, they said the proposed levy is about “sustainability and fairness”.
They added: “Our vision is to grow tourism for the good of Wales. A visitor levy will contribute to sustainable, fair tourism – with economic growth coexisting with environmental sustainability.”
“0We want visitors to know that their contribution could make a big difference in supporting the destinations they love and enjoy.
“A small charge wouldn’t be unique to Wales. If someone has been on holiday to Greece or France, to the Netherlands or New Zealand – or to any of more than 40 countries around the world who have visitor levies – they will have paid a small charge to help keep those places attractive to visit. They may not even have noticed paying it.
“And while Wales may be the first place in the UK to introduce such a levy, we do not believe it will be the last. Increasingly the UK nations look to be outliers in not asking tourists to pay a small charge to support the areas they are visiting.
“A levy will put Wales on the same standing as other world class tourist destinations. So why not Wales?”
Support our Nation today
For the price of a cup of coffee a month you can help us create an independent, not-for-profit, national news service for the people of Wales, by the people of Wales.