Shropshire Star

Would you pay a tourism tax to visit Wales?

Just how much do you love your visits across the border to Wales?

Llandudno is a favourite destination but would you pay an extra tax to visit?

There are plans to put that loyalty to the test by charging you extra for the right to stay.

A tourism tax is likely to become a reality within the next two years. That means that, on top of travel, rent or hotel fees, you will end up paying extra to the Welsh government for every night of your stay.

The move has proved controversial and is very relevant to areas like Shropshire, Staffordshire and the West Midlands where tens of thousands take the relatively short trip to tourism favourites like Snowdonia as well as the north and west Welsh coast.

Supporters say the tax would contribute towards maintaining and investing in holiday destinations and would hardly be noticed.

Opponents say it would put people off visiting Wales. Why spend a week in Barmouth and pay tax when you can do the same in Weston-super-Mare or Blackpool without the extra charge?

Similar charges are commonplace around the world, used in more than 40 destinations including Greece, Frankfurt, Amsterdam and Catalonia.

Manchester introduced a tourist tax last year for people making overnight stays in the city, with 74 hotels and guesthouses signing up to the scheme for an extra £1 per night.

Nia Jones, joint chairwoman of Anglesey Tourism Association, said: "Some local authorities are for it – I don't think we're talking a huge amount of money, it'll be a couple of pounds extra for the accommodation sector.

"The important part is that is spent on the tourism infrastructure and if that happens and people can see the visible and tangible benefits of the tax then we wait to see how it works."

However, Ms Jones accepted there are opponents to the tax, describing it as a "hot potato" in tourism. She added: "There's still a degree of nervousness in businesses operating at the moment so there will be a split in how the trade will view a tourism tax in Wales.

"We're nervous about the tax because it's new, because the industry is still quite volatile after Covid."

Legislation allowing local authorities to introduce a levy will be put to the Senedd within the next two years, the Welsh government has said. It has also published the findings of a public consultation on the topic.

Visit Pembrokeshire said it was "very disappointed" at the desire to push forward with the tax.

"It's disheartening to hear that the strong opposition from the trade across Wales has not been listened to," said Emma Thornton, its chief executive.

The Welsh government has previously said that the levy would be for each council to control.

They would choose whether or not to introduce the charge "according to the needs of their communities".

The Welsh government said it received more than 1,000 responses to the public consultation about how best to implement a tax, which closed last December. It found support across most local authorities and across other organisations, it added.

However, it also said many responses came from representatives of the tourism industry and many disagreed with the principle of a visitor tax.

The issue has caused something of a storm politically, with Tories saying the Labour-run Senedd was adding another burden to tourism businesses that are only just recovering from Covid.

The chairman of the Commons Welsh Affairs Committee criticised the Welsh government's proposal.

Stephen Crabb, a Conservative former cabinet minister and the MP for Preseli Pembrokeshire in Wales, said such a levy would be the "very last thing" businesses need.

And Treasury minister Victoria Atkins attempted to draw a distinction from the Conservative government in Westminster, pointing to tax relief and the so-called Brexit pubs guarantee, adding Welsh Labour "wants to call last orders and to have higher taxes".

Mr Crabb was speaking in the Commons during a session of questions to Treasury ministers, and said "a great many" of the "new job opportunities and career paths" being created in Pembrokeshire are being created in the tourism and hospitality sector.

He said: "The very last thing that business people who are creating those growth opportunities need right now is a tourism tax of the kind being brought forward by the Welsh Labour government in Cardiff that will hit these businesses with new burdens and raise the cost of going on holiday in Wales".

Treasury minister Ms Atkins said: "He is quite right to identify how the Conservatives in government are trying to help these businesses through our business rates relief in England, through our energy support scheme over recent months, and of course through the Brexit pub guarantee.

"Welsh Labour on the other hand wants to call last orders and to have higher taxes for those businesses he's so keen to support."

A Welsh government spokesperson said: "Visitor levies are commonplace across the world, with revenues used to the benefit of local communities, tourists and businesses.

"Our plans would allow local authorities to decide if they want to introduce a levy, based on the needs of their areas.

"The levy could make a real difference by generating new revenue to develop and enhance local services and infrastructure.

"We are ambitious for Wales as a tourist destination and will continue to work with communities, visitors and businesses to achieve sustainable growth for tourism across Wales."