‘Tourist tax’ plan could see York visitors pay a levy to stay here

Photograph: Tim Green on Wikipedia

Tourists could be asked to pay £1 a night to stay in York, with the money raised spent on tackling anti-social behaviour and cleaning up the city centre.

The Labour group has put forward plans for a voluntary tourist levy.

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.

Cllr Stuart Barnes, deputy leader of the Labour group, said some residents are concerned about the impact of tourism on the city centre. He said:

  • We completely understand that tourism is critical to York’s economy and generates jobs.

    But there’s also another side, in terms of the impact on the city. At the moment residents are picking up the cost of that impact.

    When we speak with residents, it’s an issue that comes up a lot, many don’t feel the city centre is focused on local people.

Curb bad behaviour

Cllr Stuart Barnes
He said the fee would be voluntary because national legislation would be needed to impose a tax. He added that there would be incentives for hotels to take part in the scheme.

“We would want to ringfence the money and use it for things like employing more street rangers to curb things like stag and hen groups’ low level anti-social behaviour,” he added.

“Also for enhancing the city centre open spaces, highways or just improving things like litter and cleanliness.”

He said the money would not go back into the council’s budget.

It is not the first time a tourist levy has been proposed for the city – the idea was put forward in 2012 and also featured in York Green Party’s 2015 election manifesto.

Cllr Andy D’Agorne, leader of the Green Party, said: “If it was voluntary it would be less effective but it is worth trying if major chains could be persuaded to sign up to it.

“I think proceeds should include support for homeless people in the city, such as hot food and drink, as that is something that does concern visitors too.”

‘Not the right time’

Edinburgh is considering a tourist tax

Bath, Edinburgh and the Scottish Highlands are among other local authorities considering a tourist levy.

Cllr Keith Aspden, leader of York Liberal Democrats, said: “We continue to keep a close eye on developments in Edinburgh and other cities, to see what progress is made.

“We will be committing to the exploration of a tourism levy as part of our campaign for the upcoming May elections and we look forward to working with other parties in the city to continue this discussion.”

But the York Conservative group said they have already looked at the possibility of introducing a tourist tax and discovered that, although it may be a popular measure amongst residents, councils do not have the authority to impose a levy.

Paul Whiting, head of Visit York, said it is “vitally important” to protect York’s tourism sector and the organisation is committed to being involved in a debate on a tourist levy.

But he added they do not believe now is a good time to launch a tourist tax, particularly with the uncertainty of Brexit.