Wales tourist tax ‘will hit communities and businesses,’ say critics
Plans for a tourism tax in Wales that would see money reinvested into communities has attracted criticism from businesses leaders in the sector.
A public consultation into whether to give councils the power to charge visitors who are staying overnight in the country was launched today, September 20.
How much visitors could be charged has not yet been decided.
Finance minister Rebecca Evans said it would be a “small contribution” that would go towards maintaining local amenities such as beaches, pavements, parks, toilets and footpaths.
But many reliant on tourism have said now is not the time to impose such a tax in case it deters visitors who are already cutting back on holidays and short breaks away due to higher bills.
Chairman of North Wales Tourism Christopher Frost said the economic and social landscape “has changed exponentially” since the last election.
“The biggest change in the economic landscape is clearly the cost-of-living crisis, which has seen an enormous surge in the price of energy, utilities and food.
“For many, prices have in some cases doubled or tripled and for many businesses this has made the cost of doing business extremely high.
“With the sector skills shortage, the challenges from an unregulated Airbnb market, the rise in employment costs, this is the wrong time to launch a consultation on a bed tax that will add further to the cost of doing business, will hit the confidence of an industry that has not yet overcome the challenges of the pandemic and will create further bad publicity for an industry that is already struggling.”
Earlier this year the owner of one of Wales’ biggest attractions, Dan-yr-Ogof at the National Showcaves Centre for Wales, banned Welsh Government ministers including the First Minister Mark Drakeford from the site over what he called their “anti-tourism” policies.
The Welsh Tories have said the tax “poses grave dangers for Wales” and would “leave jobs hanging in the balance”, with the party calling Welsh Labour “arrogant” for pressing ahead with the plans “despite near-unanimous opposition from the Welsh tourism industry”.
The Conservatives have claimed that if the Welsh levy is comparable to those imposed in other European countries, a family of four staying in the country for six nights could be charged on average around £75.
Ms Evans said: “These proposals are about preparing for the future.
“Our intention 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.”
‘People will still come’
Cymdeithas Yr Iaith, which campaigns for the Welsh language and the communities of Wales has welcomed the ‘tourism tax’ proposal.
Jeff Smith of Cymdeithas Yr Iaith said: “Tourism has been seen as something that benefits visitors, without consideration of the impact on the community. A number of areas in Wales are dependent on tourism but that is not sustainable in the long term.
“Visitors are charged a higher amount to visit attractions or to stay in a number of cities across Europe, such as Paris, Venice and Madrid, and countries such as New Zealand and Japan. People still visit those places.
“If we believe that Wales is an attractive place to come and visit then it stands to reason that people will still come here even if they have to pay a small extra, especially if that benefits that area.
“Individuals don’t have to be charged large sums either, but raising a small tax on visitors would raise a significant amount that could be invested in local services and develop a sustainable industry that serves the community.”
The proposed levy is one of the policies brought about through the Welsh Government’s co-operation agreement with Plaid Cymru.
It could take a number of years for the levy to be brought in should it be approved by the Senedd.
People will be able to submit their views on the levy on the government’s website from this afternoon.
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