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by Guardian.co.uk” width=”140″ height=”45″ />This article titled “Will Bath dare to become the first UK city with a ‘tourist tax’?” was written by Homa Khaleeli, for The Guardian on Wednesday 11th January 2017 15.51 UTC
The “tourist tax” is one of those ideas that everyone agrees is great – and then quietly drops. But now the historic city of Bath might take the plunge and become the first place in the UK to implement one.
With the city’s council facing £37m of cuts in the next five years, it is considering an extra charge for overnight visitors to Bath, a local councillor has told the BBC.
Outside the UK, such tourist taxes flourish – from the Balearic Islands to Rome, Amsterdam and Paris. But while cities such as Edinburgh, Birmingham, Brighton and London – as well as Cornwall – have all toyed with the idea of cashing in on the tourists who flock to them, none has seen it through. This is despite the fact that a 2007 commission into local government funding recommended a tourist tax, while a 2012 commission set up by Boris Johnson when he was London Mayor said there was a “powerful argument for a levy”.
One reason local authorities are reluctant is that no one wants to be the first. David James, Visit Bath’s chief executive, says tourist taxes in the UK might prove inevitable, but that if Bath becomes the first to slap them on, it may damage the Somerset city’s reputation.
“I’m not against considering it, but I wouldn’t want us to be the first. We will be labelled ‘the tax city of the UK’. We market ourselves as the UK’s most beautiful city and that’s what I would like to keep as our accolade.”
With Bath having the most expensive hotel rooms outside London, it could be especially tricky, he points out. “It would be nice to see London, or a bigger city do it first.”
Currently, Bath council does not have the legal powers to bring in the tax, but the West of England’s new metro mayor – who will be elected in May – will change all this. The British Hospitality Association has, in the past, pointed out that the UK’s VAT rate is already one of the highest in Europe, but perhaps it should look on the bright side – whatever Bath decides, its tourist tax is unlikely to come close to Bhutan’s – where visitors must spend a minimum of 0 (£138) a day.
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