‘A knife in the side of tourism: Why York should oppose the tourist tax’

Visitors on York walls. Photograph © Allan Harris on Flickr
24 Jan 2019 @ 7.40 pm
| Business, Opinion
Chair of Hospitality Association York Graham Usher says city councillors should be encouraging visitors, not putting them off

Another knife in the side for the tourism sector from Scott Barnes who wants to introduce a £1 voluntary tourist levy.

Mr Barnes, deputy leader of the York Labour group, says the fee would be added to visitors’ hotel bills at the end of their stay and they could opt-out of paying, similar to the tip added to the bill at some restaurants.

What are they thinking? I have chaired ‘HAY’ – Hospitality Association York – for several years and it staggers me the attitude and narrow-mindedness from the local leaders about our sector in this city.

Cllr Barnes claims ‘some’ local residents are concerned about the impact of tourism on the city centre – to date I see no facts or figures to support such claims.

£100m a year industry

Grays Court, one of York’s top hotels
This sector generates over £100 million in revenue a year from hotels alone, not to mention what our customers spend in the city while they stay.

Neither the city’s hotels or HAY were asked about whether they would want or support such a charge, consulted or asked to offer an opinion.

I would have thought the local leaders should be encouraging tourists to our beautiful city, not steering them away with further charges and taxations.

Cllr Barnes also claims this money would be ringfenced and spent to curb such things as anti social behaviour employing street rangers and clearing up litter. How has this become the fault of the local hotels?

Just over two years ago the York Business Improvement District (BID) was brought in to do just that. Executive director Andrew Lowson has employed Street Rangers and improved the cleanliness of the city through a BID budget to which a number of city centre hotels contribute.

A public apology

Edinburgh is considering a tourist tax
Cllr Keith Aspden mentioned that they are keeping a close eye on Edinburgh with the introduction of their £2 per room tax and will be exploring the tourist levy as part of their campaign for the May elections.

He states they look forward to working with other parties in the discussion – well it would be a start that all these leaders make a conscious and concerted effort to even speak with the hospitality sector in the city to gain their opinions, and more importantly gain their support.

The Hospitality Association York are totally opposed to this further charge to our sector and would require a public apology from Cllr Barnes and other leaders.

We would also welcome support from Cllr Nigel Ayre whom I understand is the leader of culture and tourism for our city yet myself, HAY and the local hotels are yet to have any communication from him.