Comment: Bath ‘tourism tax’? It simply won’t wash!

Harold Burke, sales director at Grand UK Holidays, says tourists should not be fleeced with yet another tax.

For years, members of the travel trade have been lobbying for a reduction in VAT on accommodation to encourage tourism.

We’ve also campaigned against more hikes in Air Passenger Duty, a tax which has a negative effect on tourism.

So, the news that Bath councillors plan to introduce a ‘tourist tax’ suggests that the council is out of touch with our industry.

It appears that Bath and North East Somerset Council hopes to introduce a £1 nightly surcharge per room that would bring in about £2.4 million each year.

The council says this will be reinvested into the local area, in culture, heritage and the arts.

In my opinion, it is nothing more than another scheme to take hard-earned cash out of people’s pockets.

Dangerous precedent

If this plan gets the green light, it will set a very dangerous precedent for our industry, as there can be little doubt that other councils will quickly jump on this bandwagon.

Tourism, by its very nature, is a vital part of our economy on which many businesses depend.

Bath receives 5.8 million visitors annually, who spend money the city’s shops, restaurants and hotels – supporting an estimated 10,000 jobs in the region.

Naturally, hoteliers in Bath are concerned about the effect this tax could have on the city’s image – and they’re worried about the administration and costs of collecting it.

Small properties and bed-and-breakfasts in particular could be hit hard – and how would the council collect money from tourists booking via sites such as AirBnB?

Why should tourists have their pockets picked yet again?

It’s difficult enough for our industry trying to lobby for a reduction in VAT – which is unlikely to prove successful because it’s money in the bank – without councils wanting to hit tourism even harder with a ‘tourist tax’.

This proposed scheme will simply devalue the contribution tourism already makes to local services and it will be seen for what it is – just another means of fleecing the tourist.