The owner of a top Welsh tourist attraction has called the idea of a Wales tourist tax ‘unfathomable’ and says ‘anti-English’ sentiments are likely to affect the holiday industry. In February, the Welsh Government announced that a consultation on the tourist tax would be launched this autumn when full details are released.
If implemented, councils can choose whether or not to introduce a tourist tax. The fee would be paid by anyone staying in a hotel, self-catering apartment or campsite overnight.
Ashford Price has been in charge of the National Showcaves Center for Wales at Dan yr Ogof, near Ystradgynlais in the Swansea Valley, for nearly 50 years and has spoken as Member Secretary of the Welsh Association of Visitor Attractions .
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As the sector prepares for Easter and a key chance to kick off the tourist season, he says the proposed tourist tax will lead to fewer employees in the tourism industry and possibly less tourism investment. Ministers say a tourism levy would raise funds for councils to run services and infrastructure in tourist hotspots. Mr Price said: ‘For the Welsh Government to even consider the idea of a Welsh tourist levy…is unfathomable to many Welsh tourists.’
Mr Price said Welsh tourism businesses were still struggling after the pandemic, still had large debts to pay off and were now facing rising electricity costs, insurance increases, food costs and increases fuel.
“All the other devolved regions – England, Northern Ireland, Scotland – have looked at the idea of a tourist tax. The most recent was Scotland, but all eventually gave up on the idea due to the potential damage to their tourism industry,” Mr Price said.
“If this Welsh tourist tax is indeed enforced, how many of our potential customers will just vote with their feet and go to Devon or Ireland or Scotland rather than pay ‘another tax’ at a time when they are trying to do Faced with a personal problem Cost of living crisis The Welsh government doesn’t seem to realize that there are many other parts of Britain that also have beautiful beaches and dramatic mountains Visit England, Visit Scotland , Visit Ireland must all be delighted that the Welsh Government is proposing to self-inflict such injury on Welsh tourism.
“Tourism is Wales’ second largest industry and tourists spend an average of £8m a day in Wales, and a quarter of all VAT registered businesses are in the visitor economy, so Wales has a lot to lose if this tax is implemented, and many tourists then stay away.We must certainly encourage tourists to come to Wales – not tax them for coming!
“The Sun, Express and Mail newspapers are already raving about it, calling the proposed Welsh tourist levy a ‘tax on English people wishing to visit Wales’. From the many English contacts I have made in tourism over the years, I gather that there is now a growing feeling among some in England that the Welsh government is anti-English, and also anti- tourism. In many parts of Wales, 80% of their visitors come from England. Can Wales really afford to lose this market?
He added: ‘The Welsh government often states that other parts of Europe have a tourist tax. That’s right, but wrongly what the Welsh government doesn’t say, for example, is that France and Spain’s VAT rate for tourism is around 10%, not 20% as in Great Britain. The Welsh government also likes to show that Welsh tourism compares favorably to other countries like France and Spain.
“However, France has 433 million overnight tourists and Spain 471 million overnight stays. Wales has only 34 million overnight stays. Overnight tourists in Wales spend on average around £190 a day, while day visitors only spend around £30.. Therefore we should certainly encourage overnight stays, not impose an additional tax on tourists who support the Welsh economy by spending the night.”
The Showcaves manager also said he didn’t think the Welsh would realize the tax would “hit them in the pocket”.
“As an example, hen and stag parties who stay overnight in Tenby will have to pay this tax, as will anyone Welsh staying in a hotel or caravan park. Youngsters in tents will have to pay this tax. pay this tax,” he said.
“In fact, this tax is likely to hit the lower incomes of many Welsh people much more than the tourist staying in £350 per night accommodation who won’t mind an extra £15 on their bill. The Welsh Government is promoting the myth of ‘over-tourism’ in Wales based on ‘holidays at home’ following last year’s pandemic. However, it is a fact that in most normal tourist seasons, Welsh tourism only lasts just over eight weeks a year.
“There are definitely areas of honey around some areas, eg Snowdon, Pembrokeshire, but the Lake District, the west coast of Scotland all seem to be coping with peaks in demand much better than we are in Wales. Perhaps a way to solve the ‘honeypot’ area problem is to promote only the lesser known areas, eg Mid Wales?
“Surprisingly, the Welsh Government has not conducted any analytical research into the impact of such a tax on Welsh tourism, or the cost of implementing such a tax, or even the end revenues. For anyone running a tourism business in Wales, the Welsh Government’s lack of ‘tourist tax research’ should be alarm bells.
“However, it doesn’t take much intuition to guess that for many operators further business investment is now on hold until the consequences of the tourist tax are fully understood.”
Earlier this year, the Welsh Government confirmed that a consultation on local visitor tax proposals will be launched in the autumn. Rebecca Evans, Minister for Finance and Local Government, said in February: “Visitor levies are a common feature in tourist destinations internationally. They are an opportunity for visitors to invest in local infrastructure and services, which in turn make tourism a success. Without such a levy, local communities face an excessive burden to fund local services and benefits that tourists depend on.
“From clean beaches and sidewalks to maintaining local parks, restrooms and trails, the critical infrastructure that sustains tourism should be supported by all who depend on it. The introduction and subsequent use of such a tax would ensure that destinations in Wales are enjoyed for generations to come and encourage a more sustainable approach to tourism.
“The levy would be proportionate by design, and the powers to increase the levy would be discretionary for local authorities. This would allow decisions to be made locally, according to the needs of our communities. The levy will apply to those who pay to stay overnight in a local authority area.
“Opportunities for broader input on the cost impact of other types of visitor activity on local infrastructure will be offered as part of the consultation on the fee.”
A Welsh Government spokesperson said: “Visitor taxes are commonplace around the world, with revenue being used to benefit local communities, tourists and businesses. We will consider all views in the as part of the consultation process this fall.
“The painstaking process of developing levy proposals, translating them into legislation, and then delivery and implementation spans years and will be subject to approval by the Senedd.”