CALLS for the Welsh Government to abandon proposals to introduce a tourism tax have been dismissed.
It comes despite a warning that plans to bring in a so-called “local visitor levy” will lead to a decline in the number of tourists coming to Wales.
Ministers have claimed the tax would raise revenue for local authorities, enabling them to pay for services and infrastructure in tourist hot spots.
It forms part of the Labour government’s co-operation agreement with Plaid Cymru, which includes a commitment to introduce levies.
However, the idea has been slammed as “regressive” by the Welsh Conservatives, who said it would put the economy at risk and cause job losses.
The comments were made during a debate held in the Senedd yesterday – Wednesday, 27 April – after the opposition party put forward a motion urging the government to scrap the plans.
Conservative MS Tom Giffard said: “The big threat on the horizon from the Welsh Government is the proposed introduction of a tourism tax.
“We know that this is a Welsh Government that likes to take its ultra-left-wing policy ideas straight from the middle pages of the Morning Star, but this is quite something else.
“This proposal is totally regressive, and it’ll impede the very businesses that we should be supporting to come out of the other side of the last couple of years.
“We’re always met with the same old tired response from Welsh Government that other countries across the world have implemented this tax, without taking into account any specifically Welsh factors at all.
“But I thought ministers might be keen to hear the latest from Venice, one of the world’s leading tourism destinations, that has now said it’s introducing a tourism tax to dissuade further visitors from attending.
“It’ll lead to fewer places to stay, small businesses going out of business, fewer visitors overall and no more money being spent on tourism.”
Minister for finance and local government, Rebecca Evans, said tourism-related expenditure was worth more than £5 billion to the Welsh economy in 2019.
She denied the suggestion that the tax would have a negative impact and said it was aimed at making the tourism industry more sustainable.
She said: “Tourism levies are very commonplace across the world, with most countries in Europe applying them.
“They’re proportionate by design and they represent a small percentage of the overall bill for consumers.
“There’s little evidence that tourism levies have a negative economic impact.
“They’re used to benefit those local areas and communities that choose to use them.”
She added: “The powers will be discretionary, empowering local authorities to make their own judgements and decide what’s best for their communities.
“Of course, I welcome all views and evidence as we continue to work collaboratively with our partners to help shape these proposals.”
The motion submitted by the Conservatives was defeated by 34 votes to 15 at the end of the debate.
A consultation into the proposed tourism tax will take place later this year, which ministers said would provide an opportunity for all views to be considered.