Tourism tax will not help ‘welcome to Wales’ message says Wales Tourism Alliance chair
The chair of Wales Tourism Alliance has said that a tourism tax would not help in creating a “welcome to Wales” message that will attract tourists to the country.
Suzy Davies, a former Conservative Senedd Member, was giving evidence to the Welsh Affairs Committee on Wales as a global tourist destination.
She said that “damaging headlines” in Wales’ press about the tourism tax and other policy announcements had not helped the industry during the tourism season.
“This message that we’re good to go and Wales is ready for business has been successful on one side – working with Visit Britain on this ‘good to go’ thing has been great,” she said.
“Of course Wales has been the subject of some damaging headlines internally because of various policy announcements that have been taken and run with in a very bad way by some of the local press such as tourism tax and stuff, which has not helped us during our higher period.”
She was asked by Aberconwy Conservative MP Robin Millar whether tourism tax should be introduced in Wales given that it tends to exist in other countries that have a lower rate of VAT.
“All tourism tax countries have much lower rates of VAT for tourism products in those countries,” she said. “10% Less generally, and a little bit on the actual product.
“But the prospect of a 20% VAT rate plus the tourism tax, however modest, is not great news for tourism in GB, let alone Wales.
“And again it does not help us with that ‘Wales really wants you, welcome to Wales’ message that we need to be pushing at the moment.”
Dave Chapman, the Executive Director for Wales for UK Hospitality, told the committee that high taxes were a problem for the industry coming on top of the Covid pandemic.
“If you put the combination of costs on top of two years where closures and restrictions have had a destabilising effect on the industry, it really shows the fragility of the industry at the moment,” he said.
“We have a whole cauldron of costs which are having an effect right across the sector.”
In October, the Welsh Government and Plaid Cymru confirmed a consultation on proposals for a local visitor levy will launch in autumn 2022.
A tourism tax would raise revenue for local authorities enabling them to manage services and infrastructure which makes tourism a success, they said.
Rebecca Evans, Minister for Finance and Local Government, said a levy would enable destinations in Wales to be enjoyed for generations to come.
Plaid Cymru’s Designated Member Cefin Campbell MS said that the “measure will help support a sustainable rather than an extractive tourism sector”.
But last week Ashford Price, secretary of the Welsh Association of Visitor Attractions, said that the tourism tax could “damage” the tourism industry in Wales as tourists would visit other parts of the UK without a tax instead.
“From the many English contacts I have made in tourism over the years, I gather there is now a growing feeling by some in England that the Welsh Government is anti-English, and also anti-tourism,” he said.
“In many Welsh regions, 80% of their visitors come from England. Can Wales really afford to lose this market?”
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