Tom Giffard MS warns against the detrimental effects of the tourism levy on the industry and visitors in Wales.
Labour’s tourism tax, in my view, is one of their worst ever policies in 25 years of Wales under Labour. The latest figures for visitor volume in Wales were grim, according to the latest Welsh tourism barometer.
Market confidence is lower in Wales than the rest of the UK, with 7% fewer businesses expecting an increase in customer numbers and businesses unable to fill a majority of their available capacity.
But this is not surprising given that Labour seem to be fighting against the tourism industry, not for it.
We know that tourist hotspots, like Venice, brought in tourism taxes in order to deter visitors because they feel they are suffering from over-tourism. Wales has no such problem. We desperately need to be encouraging footfall, overnight stays and investment into Wales.
We deserve to reap the benefits of more visitors to Wales, creating more jobs and encouraging investment.
1 in 7 jobs in Wales rely on the tourism industry – that’s an extraordinary nearly 200,000 people – with many of those jobs at risk when Labour bring this measure in. Yet, Labour Ministers, time after time, stand up in the Senedd to berate the Welsh Conservatives for fighting against these plans and standing up for local people.
They call us obsessed. Well, I am unashamedly and absolutely obsessed with backing the sector and enhancing the Welsh tourism offer. We are an attractive, exciting and welcoming country to visit.
We deserve to reap the benefits of more visitors to Wales, creating more jobs and encouraging investment. And people deserve to come and see what we have to offer and should be encouraged to do so, not impeded by the feckless Labour party in Cardiff Bay.
The main argument for their so-called ‘visitor levy’ is that, given that councils have the power to set the rate and collect the funds, the proceeds will be used to improve the tourism offer in the local area where it is applied.
However, this is a complete falsehood. Labour have given no indication as to how councils will be compelled to spend the money in this way.
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In fact, depending on how you ask, like typical Labour, they’ve spent it three or four times already from their unaffordable UBI pilot, to school meals for the children of millionaires or even failing to spend the money altogether, sending it back to Westminster.
The socialists in Cardiff Bay have form when it comes to spending money they don’t have, but this would be a slap in the face for people working in the sector and even those who may otherwise be sympathetic to the idea.
We don’t need a tourism tax to provide support to this integral Welsh industry. The UK Conservative Government have bankrolled exciting new initiatives to restore cultural and heritage sites across Wales and improve transport links in rural parts of the country, including in North Wales.
UK Government initiatives such as Levelling Up, Community Renewal, Community Ownership and Shared Prosperity funds have been hugely beneficial for Wales – where my region of South Wales West is benefiting from more than £161 million.
The Labour Government in Wales needs to add further value to these initiatives to help boost tourism and they can easily afford to do so.
Visit Wales should be taken out from under the thumb of the Labour Government and have the best and brightest minds focussed on promoting our great country to the rest of the world.
They can start by scrapping their plans to expand the Senedd and send more politicians to Cardiff Bay at a cost of £100 million, their £33 million blanket 20mph speed limits, costly Constitutional Commission and their pointless voting extension pilots to name just a few of their vanity projects.
A positive step being taken by myself and to their credit, with initial support from across parties, is my tourism-based Member’s Legislative Proposal (MLP).
I have proposed that Visit Wales become a body wholly independent of government. At the moment, the agency tasked with promoting Wales as a tourist destination is under the control of a Labour Government that is intent on discouraging visitors to Wales. In this regard, we need to make independence work for Welsh tourism.
While the first vote was successful, it is not binding. I did, however, sense a strength of feeling in the Welsh Parliament that Visit Wales should be taken out from under the thumb of the Labour Government and have the best and brightest minds focussed on promoting our great country to the rest of the world.
Labour’s new minimum occupancy rule, where furnished holiday lets will need to be occupied for 182 days of the year, which has just come into force, on April Fool’s Day no less, will hammer Welsh self-catering accommodation providers and is already causing undue, soul-crushing stress to small businesses the length and breadth of Wales. We desperately need a U-turn here.
Labour simply don’t get it. They’re listening to the wrong people: nationalists who fear an English invasion and socialists who want to take an ever-enlarging slice of a cake that they are inadvertently shrinking. The irony is that these actions also hurt tourists from other parts of Wales holidaying in Wales – the Labour Government are robbing Peter to pay Paul.
Instead they should be listening to hardworking small business owners, the self-employed who work their socks off to attract visitors to Wales and to accommodate them so that they might spend money in our local communities.
The Welsh Conservatives back the tourism industry to the hilt, whereas Labour want to tax and overregulate it into oblivion.