Tourism leaders voice fears over ‘bed tax’ plans

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TOURISM leaders have warned that a nightly “bed tax” for stays in one of Yorkshire’s most popular destinations could undermine the multi-million pound industry amid renewed calls to instigate the controversial charge.

The plans to impose a £1 levy for each person staying in York for a night have been heralded as a vital means of providing a new source of revenue for the city council, which is facing swingeing £19.7m cuts to its budgets over a two-year period.

The contentious proposals have once again been put forward by the York Fairness Commission after initial calls were made in February to introduce the tourism tax. The commission, which is an independent body set up by York Council and sponsored by the Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu, published a final report yesterday which proposes ways of tackling deprivation, exclusion and inequality in the city.

The report has urged the council to explore a series of recommendations, including a “York visitor heritage contribution” of up to £1 per head per night. The commission said the charge will actually boost tourism by improving services and infrastructure, while also relieving pressure on the council’s budgets by providing a new revenue stream.

But Visit York’s chief executive, Gillian Cruddas, said the tourism organisation had grave reservations about introducing the nightly charge on visitors, and stressed it was vital the city could “compete on a level playing field” with other destinations across Britain and Europe. York’s tourism industry supports 23,000 jobs and generates £443m each year, and Ms Cruddas was adamant that every effort needed to be made to protect the sector.

She added: “Our initial response is that we would not support a bed tax proposal. However, this report needs to be very carefully considered and we could only give a full response once all the issues have been debated.”

The council has said it will consider all proposals put forward by the commission, although senior officers have said a tourism tax would create “conflicting issues” for the city. The Treasury said yesterday there would need to be an overhaul of legislation to instigate a national tourism tax, although it is a proposals which is being considered.

The commission’s report also called for a living wage in the city, with current calculations putting it at £7.20 per hour – higher than the £6.08 National Minimum Wage. Other plans include instigating a by-law to restrict the activities of pay-day loan companies and creating a central information hub for the city’s residents.

‘Principles of fairness can guide our society’: Opinion, Page 13.