Businesses warn any new Welsh tourist tax would destroy the economy

‘We need visitors more than ever’: Businesses warn proposed Welsh tourism tax would decimate the economy – but some locals say ‘send holidaymakers to Devon and Cornwall’

  • Visitors to Wales may have to pay a tourism levy if they wish to stay in the future 
  • Hospitality bosses say proposed tax is ‘crazy’ and reflects ‘anti-English’ agenda
  • Potential visitors have said they will not go, opting for Spain or the Lake District 
  • The Welsh Government will launch a consultation on the plans in the autumn 

Hospitality chiefs, small businesses and tourism bosses have warned any new levy for foreign holidaymakers coming to Wales would ‘decimate’ the holiday industry.

Visitors to Wales may be forced to pay a tourism levy to stay in the country in the future, if a planned consultation which will be launched by the Labour-backed Welsh Government this autumn is approved. 

Industry leaders warned the move could irreparably damage the country’s tourism sector, with some saying a new charge could be seen as an ‘anti-English’ agenda. 

Ashford Price, secretary of the Welsh Association of Visitor Attractions, has demanded the plans be scrapped amid a ‘growing feeling of anti-English and anti-tourist sentiment’ within the Welsh government. 

‘How many of our potential customers will simply vote with their feet and go to Devon, Ireland, or Scotland rather than pay yet another tax at a time when they are trying to cope with a personal cost of living crisis?’ he asked. 

And William Lees-Jones, who runs the 194-year-old chain JW Lees Brewery, warned any new tax would mean prospective tourists go to Spain rather than Wales.

He told MailOnline: ‘It [the tourist tax] will be a disaster. People will just end up going to Spain instead.’

Others echoed his sentiment. One person told the Daily Post: ‘It’s already more expensive to stay in Wales for a week than it is to have a two week all inclusive holiday in Spain. 

‘A tax would push that cost higher so they are damaging themselves.’ 

William Lees-Jones, (left) who runs the 194-year-old chain JW Lees Brewery with dozens of pubs across Wales, warned any new tax would mean prospective tourists go to Spain rather than Wales

Businessman Jamie O’Leary, 40, who runs a seafood and burger van in the car park of the seaside village of Ogmore-by-Sea, said the plans for a visitor levy were ‘shocking’

Retired nurse Amanda Luther, 57, from Blackwood, South Wales, said it would be ‘an unnecessary expense’

The Welsh Tourism Tax: What could it mean for visitors to Wales? 

How could the tax work? 

 No draft legislative proposals have been published as of yet so it’s not yet clear how the tax could work. There are concerns that the tax will hit those with second homes in Wales, and the taxation of holiday lets will increase. 

Locals are also concerned that they will be charged for holidaying in their own country.  

What is clear is that local authorities will be able to decide whether or not they implement a charge to visitors  

How much could visitors be charged? 

It’s not clear yet how much visitors could be charged, but if it is similar to the proposed tourist tax in Edinburgh, they could be charged up to £2 per night per room. 

When could it be implemented? 

The charge could be implemented following the consultation process, which will start in the autumn.  

What happens next? 

 A consultation on the proposals will launch in autumn 2022. It will provide a range of views to be considered 

Do other countries have a tourism tax? 

 Many countries charge a tax and you are likely to have paid one before, but may not have noticed as this can be included in the airline fee. 

Countries already charging a tax

Austria 

Belgium 

Bhutan 

Bulgaria

Caribbean Islands 

Croatia  

Czech Republic 

France 

Germany 

Greece 

Hungary 

Indonesia 

Italy 

Japan 

Malaysia 

New Zealand 

The Netherlands 

Portugal 

Slovenia 

Spain 

Switzerland 

USA 

The tourism tax has prompted a fevered debate online, with some travellers describing it as a ‘total disgrace’, while others vowed to spend their holidays elsewhere. 

Tourism is Wales’s second largest industry, with visitors spending on average £8 million a day in total. 

Businessman Jamie O’Leary, 40, who runs a seafood and burger van in the car park of the seaside village of Ogmore-by-Sea, told MailOnline: ‘The plans are shocking.

‘Why would you want to tax people coming into Wales to spend their hard-earned cash? It will discourage visitors from coming here when we need them more than ever.

‘It’s the idea of some clown sitting in an office in Cardiff totally out of touch with the hardships people are going through right now.’

‘Fuel has gone up, it costs more to eat out, hotel prices have increased and then we want to hit tourists with a tax just for coming into Wales. It’s ridiculous.’ 

Retired nurse Amanda Luther, 57, from Blackwood, South Wales, said: ‘It’s wrong to add more to people’s holidays especially after the pandemic when more families are staying in this country.

‘It is an unnecessary expense – we should be encouraging people to come to Wales not putting them off.

‘We are not at the point when there are too many tourists here.’

Berin Jones, chair of the Llandudno Hospitality Association, told MailOnline his group was ‘deeply concerned’ by the proposals.

Ashford Price, a stalwart of the Welsh Association of Visitor Attractions (WAVA), said the idea was ‘unfathomable’ for the tourism industry, which is still on its knees from the coronavirus pandemic.  

Mr Price added: ‘From the many English contacts I have made in tourism over the years, I gather there is now a growing feeling by some in England that the Welsh Government is anti-English, and also anti-tourism.

‘In many Welsh regions, 80 per cent of their visitors come from England. Can Wales really afford to lose this market?’

He said that other devolved governments have attempted to introduce a similar charge.  

‘All the other devolved areas have looked at the idea of a tourism tax. The most recent was Scotland. In the end, they all have abandoned the idea owing to the potential damage to their tourism industries,’ he said. 

Scottish National Party (SNP) councillors announced this week that they will be pushing for a similar tourist tax in Edinburgh, if they form the city’s next administration next month. 

The £2 per night tax would apply per room per night and be capped at £14 in a move which would also affect individual’s letting their homes through companies such as AirBnB.   

Edinburgh City Council backed a ‘Transient Visitor Levy’ in 2019 as a way of generating revenue, but the coronavirus pandemic put the plans on the back burner. 

The plans have also faced a backlash from the leader of the Welsh Conservatives Andrew RT Davies MS.

He tweeted: ‘The Labour/Plaid tourist tax plan is a nationalist dog whistle that will put a roadblock on our road to recovery.

‘After a battering from Labour’s restrictions, now Welsh hospitality is facing a battering from the separatists.’

Others argue an overnight charge could be put to good use, improving facilities for locals and visitors. 

The wider debate includes concerns over second homes in Wales, along with fears of plans to increase the taxation of holiday lets, which is seen by many as a much bigger threat to Welsh tourism. 

Locals are also voicing concerns about the impact of holidaying in their own country, and questioning where the extra revenues generated by it would go. 

If the levy is introduced following consultation, local authorities will be able to decide whether or not to implement it in their areas.  

In a recent straw poll of public sentiment, Mr Price, who runs the National Showcaves Centre for Wales, seems to have support, with comments showing a general opposition to the proposed tax. 

A number of people have vowed to avoid Wales if the charge is introduced. 

‘I holiday in Wales three times a year but due to costs of fuel going up, that is now only going to be once a year,’ one said. 

‘If another tax has to be paid just for holidaying in Wales, that will stop altogether.’   

‘Accommodation is more expensive, eating out is more expensive, and the need to buy petrol, pay for car parking and pay for attractions when the weather is dull all add extra costs to a British holiday. 

‘A tourist tax in England, Wales and Scotland would render the trip uneconomic.’ 

Another added: ‘I’ll go to the Lake District then’. 

Visitors to Wales may be forced to pay a visitor levy to set foot in the country in the future

Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford (pictured) will launch a consultation on the plans 

Their comments chime with the general feeling in the debate that holidaying in the UK is already an expensive commitment. 

In recent years, there has been a boom in staycations in the UK. But many believe this is down to the lack of overseas alternatives as a result of the pandemic, rather than a cheaper alternative to flying abroad.  

There are also fears the increased cost of living will see domestic tourism decline, and that this will be exacerbated by a tourism tax. 

Many feel that over-tourism is a temporary problem which will be resolved when the ‘Benidormers return to Spain’ by 2023. 

One person said:  ‘The problem from tourism in Wales is not those who stay in hotels, campsites or B&Bs but the day-trippers and campervans who contribute very little to the local economy. 

‘In rural areas this is partly due to the lack of facilities to encourage them to spend money.’

Tourism provides a substantial contribution to Wales, having contributed more than £5bn annually in 2019, but there are concerns a levy could have an impact on groups who support the visitor economy. 

Wales is home to several heritage sites which attract thousands of volunteers to the country, prompting many to question how they would fare with the proposed tax.       

For some, the potential levy has been welcomed. 

One accommodation provider said: ‘A tourist tax would enable more to be invested in local services that would benefit locals and visitors alike, therefore increasing the value of the offer. 

‘And if a few don’t want to pay then so be it, stay away, there’s not a shortage of people wanting to come and enjoy all Wales has to offer.’

One person said north Wales attracts ‘high quality visitors to whom a modest tourist tax is no problem’. (Pictured – Snowdonia National Park in north Wales)

North Wales is also home to the colourful village and gardens of Portmeirion 

South Wales boasts coastal views as shown in Barafundle Bay in Pembrokeshire 

One person added: ‘Every quality tourist area in countries and regions worthwhile visiting, charges a tourist tax. 

‘North Wales is a high quality tourist area, capable of attracting high quality visitors, to whom a modest tourist tax is no problem.’

And another said: ‘If someone chooses not to come here because they have to pay an extra £1 a night then they’re not likely to be people who were going to be spending a lot anyway. 

‘Tourism is important but the communities where tourism is centered is important too. If this tax will help with the upkeep then it’s a better experience for all.’ 

The Welsh Government has said visitor levies are ‘a common feature in tourist destinations internationally’, with the revenues being used to benefit locals, visitors and businesses in the area. 

In a statement released earlier this year, Rebecca Evans, Minister for Finance and Local Government, said: ‘The introduction and subsequent use of such a levy would enable destinations in Wales to be enjoyed for generations to come and encourage a more sustainable approach to tourism. 

‘[Visitor levies] are an opportunity for visitors to make an investment in local infrastructure and services, which in turn make tourism a success. 

The Welsh Government will launch a consultation on the proposals in the autumn

Visitors to popular spots including Benidorm and the Costa Blanca now pay two euros per night to stay in the area

A proposed levy in Venice could be introduced from this summer, varying between €3 (£2.50) and €10 (£8.30) depending on whether it is low or high season

‘Without such a levy, local communities face an undue burden to fund local services and provisions on which tourists rely.’

Holiday spots including Spain have their own local tourism taxes. Visitors to popular spots including Benidorm and the Costa Blanca now pay two euros per night to stay in the area. 

This year alone, a tourist fee of 300 (around £6) is set to be introduced in Thailand, while Venice also could start charging tourists from the summer. 

The proposed levy to the Italian city would vary between €3 (£2.50) and €10 (£8.30) depending on whether it is low or high season. 

By the end of 2022, non-EU citizens will need to fill out a €7 (£5.82) application form to enter the European Union. 

Those aged under 18 and over 70 will not need to pay the charge.  

Bhutan holds the record for the highest fee, charging visitors a minimum of $250 (around £190) per day during high season, and slightly less in low season. The fee covers accommodation, transportation in the country, a guide, food and entry fees. 

A spokesperson for the Welsh Government said: ‘The careful process of developing proposals for a levy, translating them into legislation, and then into delivery and implementation spans years, and will be subject to approval by the Senedd.’  

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