Shropshire Star

Plans for tourism tax in Wales come under fire

Plans for a tourism tax in Wales have come "at the worst possible time", industry bosses in the region have warned.

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Llandudno Pier

A public consultation into whether to give councils the power to charge visitors who are staying overnight in the country was launched this week.

But the plans have come under fire from tourism organisations who say the tax is the "last thing businesses need" while they still recover from the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic and face soaring energy costs.

The Welsh Government said it would be following in the footsteps of more than 40 countries around the world which have introduced a form of visitor levy, including Greece, France, Amsterdam, Barcelona, and the US state of California, if it were to go ahead.

How much visitors could be charged has not yet been decided, but 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.

Wales remains a popular holiday destination for people living in Shropshire.

Rowland Rees-Evans, chairman of Mid Wales Tourism (MWT Cymru), said: “The industry is very concerned about the timing of this tourism levy proposal. The country is already in the grip of a cost-of-living crisis with high inflation, and tourism businesses are still recovering from the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.”

Steve Hughson, chairman of the Mid Wales Regional Tourism Forum, said: “This tourism tax, which is what it is, comes at the worst possible time. Just as the sector is coming out of the pandemic, to be hit by another tax liability is a double whammy, the last thing businesses need.

“Anybody who thinks that the tourism sector has returned to normal after the pandemic are very mistaken. There are many challenges within the tourism sector, including the cost of everything has gone up and is likely to increase more, and many hospitality businesses are having to curtail their offer because they can’t get staff.

“Then you have the whole issue of how local authorities are going to use the money raised by the tourism tax. I have written to both Powys County Council and Ceredigion County Council and both have said they don’t know how they are going to use the money.

“How can the Welsh Government create a business case to justify a tax on the tourism sector when they don’t know what the outcome is going to be? You cannot have an impact assessment if you don’t know how the councils will use the money.”

He revealed that the four regional tourism forum chairs in Wales, together with industry bodies, are planning their own tourism levy consultation exercises in Cardiff and Llandudno – and maybe Mid Wales – to ensure that the industry’s voice is heard.

“We are organising our own events to get a balanced view,” added Mr Hughson.

Paul Williams, general manager of Llandudno Pier, said a potential tax was a "very bad idea, especially for us being one of the major tourist attractions in North Wales".

"We've just come out of Covid last year, the last thing we need is a tax on tourism," he said. "It's one of the biggest sectors in North Wales.

"To put a tax on top of it just seems ludicrous, especially at this time."

The consultation document, published by the Welsh Government, reveals the tax would apply to any visitor, regardless of whether they live in Wales or have travelled from outside, and it would apply to any sort of accommodation, including caravans, motorhomes, holiday lets, and hotels.

Officials say all overnight stays in Wales would be liable to the charge, including business visits, but it is anticipated some groups of people may be exempt.

The Welsh Government said the tax would support "sustainable tourism".

People will be able to submit their views on the levy on the Government's website.

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