Welsh Government ‘seeking to deter visitors’ to Wales says Conservative MP
The Welsh Government is “seeking to deter visitors” to Wales rather than attempting to grow the nation’s tourism economy, according to a Conservative MP.
Aberconwy MP Robin Millar made the accusation in a message to his constituents asking for their input into a House of Commons inquiry into expanding Wales tourism industry.
He pointed to the Welsh Government’s consultation on proposals for a tourism tax, set to begin in Autumn 2022, as proof that they were opposed to the industry.
“While the Welsh Government is seeking to deter visitors through the implementation of a tourism levy, I welcome this inquiry that will help to chart the ways in which the UK Government can support the reinvigoration of the Welsh visitor economy,” Robin Millar said.
“Tourism is invaluable to the Welsh economy and is especially important to our local economy here in Aberconwy.
“The pandemic cost the Welsh tourism sector £6billion in 2020 alone but even pre-pandemic, the potential of Wales to attract visitors from around the world was not being realised.”
He added that “Wales deserves to be a truly global tourist destination”.
“Maximising sustainable tourism is key to creating more jobs throughout Wales and this inquiry, titled ‘Wales as a Global Tourist Destination,’ is an opportunity for residents and tourism operators to contribute their ideas, as well as their concerns, about how to unlock the potential of Wales’ tourism sector.
“The inquiry is calling for evidence and I urge as many residents and operators as possible to contribute.”
Contributions to the inquiry can be submitted here.
Tourism provides a substantial economic contribution to Wales with tourism-related expenditure reaching more than £5bn annually in 2019.
Rebecca Evans, Minister for Finance and Local Government, announced a consultation on a tourism tax in Wales last week.
The Welsh Government’s Programme for Government, and the Cooperation Agreement between the Welsh Government and Plaid Cymru, both contain commitments to introduce levies.
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.
“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.”
North Wales Tourism chief executive Jim Jones hit out at the “regressive” move, after the Welsh Government announced the consultation.
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.
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.”
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