Flintshire and Wrexham tourism leaders make a stand against proposed Welsh visitor levy
An open letter from the Chairs of two local tourism partnerships is calling on Welsh Government to rethink proposals for a new levy on tourism operators in Wales.
Sam Regan (This is Wrexham) and Jo Smith (Flintshire Tourism Association) have issued a joint open letter to Welsh Government, following a period of consultation on the proposals prior to Christmas.
Under the proposals, Welsh Government states that a visitor levy will represent a small additional charge that will apply to stays in overnight, commercially-let visitor accommodation.
Any final decisions on how the levy is applied will be taken following full consideration of consultation responses.
They go on to say that a visitor levy is not intended to put people off visiting Wales.
Instead, Welsh Government propose that the levy would be a small contribution by overnight visitors that will generate additional revenue for local authorities to reinvest in local communities.
This would enable them to address some of the costs associated with tourism and encourage a more sustainable approach.
However, having gauged views from operators in the local area, Mr Regan and Mrs Smith feel that this is not a proposal that either tourism partnership would be prepared to support for a number of reasons.
Speaking about the open letter, Jo Smith, a local bed & breakfast owner and Chair of the Flintshire Tourism Association said;
“With many hospitality businesses in this area just a short drive or closer to their English neighbours, imposing a levy would be detrimental when trying to compete with accommodation rates nearby.”
“It has been pointed out by some that other areas of Europe successfully manage with a tourism levy in place, however many of these areas are not subject to the level of existing taxation that we face here in Wales.”
“There has been no reduction in VAT for hospitality despite many leading voices campaigning for this, whilst many also face far greater business rates than neighbours in European destinations.”
Adding to the argument against the proposals, Sam Regan, Chair of This is Wrexham added;
“Both Wrexham and Flintshire are still in the ‘recovery’ phase following the pandemic, with tourism figures for 2021 showing that both areas were still more than 20% short of visitor income generated in 2019, despite a busy year.”
“In addition, the costs of operating many businesses will only rise further with the energy overheads increasing rapidly.”
“Our businesses are also dealing with staffing shortages forcing many to pay higher rates than budgeted coupled with the price of produce continuing to climb, which in turn forces tighter margins to operate within.”
The responses to the Welsh Government consultation are currently being reviewed, with full details of the outcome and next steps set to be published in due course.
Tourist tax would not deter visitors
The Bevan Foundation believes that the Tourism Tax proposal should not be dismissed out of hand as it would help reflect the true costs of tourism and the revenues could support investment in tourist infrastructure.
The Welsh Think Tank argues that tourists generate extra costs, such as clearing up litter, providing car parking, and keeping beaches clean, which are picked up by the public purse. These costs should be reflected in a tourist tax, she says.
Moreover, if pitched at the right level, a tourist tax would not deter visitors. The Bevan Foundation suggested that a tax of around £1 per person per night would not be a hindrance to most tourists.
The revenues from a tourist tax could support investment in tourist infrastructure and facilities, making places more attractive for visitors.
The tourism industry already benefits from significant public support, such as Visit Wales and associated funding for improving businesses.
The Bevan Foundation believes that the industry should consider the long-term benefits of a sustainable visitor industry.
A tourist tax could raise much-needed revenues to reinvest in marketing and facilities.
Flintshire Tourism Association and This is Wrexham joint open letter to Welsh Government
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