Shropshire Star

Tourism industry in Wales challenges leadership contenders in race to replace Mark Drakeford

Contenders in the race to replace Welsh Labour leader Mark Drakeford have been challenged to back the country's tourism industry.

File photo of the Senedd, the Welsh Assembly building in Cardiff Bay. Photo: Anthony Devlin/PA Wire.

The Wales Tourism Alliance has written to Jeremy Miles and Vaughan Gething asking them to revisit what they call "damaging policy decisions".

Its letter has been co-signed by North Wales Tourism, Mid Wales Tourism and Visit Pembrokeshire, Wales’s three main destination management companies, as well as different types of accommodation, attractions and language schools.

But the letter is also signed by the Welsh Retail Consortium, the Farmers Union of Wales and the Country Landowners Association, demonstrating the eco-system which underpins the economy in so many parts of Wales.

Now they have asked members of the Senedd in Cardiff to help them find out what the new First Minister will do to prove he make this key industry a priority.

Business leaders say that tourism has been dealing with a flood of policy changes from different Welsh Government ministers in the last two years.

Suzy Davies, chair of the WTA, said: “It is important that the new First Minister understands that tourism is an eco-system as well as an industry.

"It is a joint effort by everyone who shares their part of the world with visitors, and who subsequently share the benefits. The co-signatories to this letter reflect this wider understanding, and that tourism remains a prime economic driver in so many parts of Wales.

“If you target one sector, the effects ripple out beyond the immediate focus and affect other businesses, not just on the high street, but laundries, timber yards, fabricators, landscapers, printers, solicitors, accountants, heritage properties, conference facilities, events management, skills development, education providers and - of course - local food and drink producers.

“We are asking the candidates to commit to a date for a review of the cumulative effect of policies currently affecting tourism; business rate relief, the 182-day rule, council tax premiums, planning restrictions, specific changes to fire and waste collection regulations.

"We also ask them to consider, within that, the additional effect of proposed policies such as statutory licensing, tourism tax and changes to the school year. We would expect any such review to include consideration of the knock-on effects across that eco-system, for example, on retail and farming."

She added that they are also asking for action on rules that "deny business rate relief" to local holiday let businesses.

She said: “We also ask for action, in the first 100 days, on the 182-day rule.

"This treats bona fide local holiday let businesses as second homes, for the purposes of local taxation, if they cannot show 182-days occupancy.

"This means they are denied business rate relief and required to pay domestic council tax instead, and at increasing levels of premium in some local authority areas. However, they will still be subject to the same costs and regulatory requirements, including national tax, as other businesses, which is both unique and legally incoherent.

“We have no argument with Welsh Government trying to manage the number of second homes - but these businesses are not second homes.

“We are looking for a First Minister who sees the benefits of a well-being industry for Wales, and understands that good relationships need more than sweet words.”