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UK tourists say charge tourist tax on overseas visitors

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In a poll of more than 1,000 UK holidaymakers, well over half (57%) do not think tourists should have to pay such taxes. However, when asked if the UK should follow suit, almost half (45%) agreed that a tourism tax should be imposed on the 40 million annual overseas visitors who come to the British Isles.

UK holidaymakers are demanding the British Government introduces a tourism levy for overseas visitors to the country as they are fed up with having to pay such taxes when travelling overseas, reveals research released today (Monday 5 November) from World Travel Market London.

This year New Zealand and Barbados have announced plans for a tourism tax, following the example of many other destinations that charge tourists for their stay. Many countries that are popular with UK tourists charge fees for visitors, including Spain, Italy, France and the US.

The number of overseas visitor nights spent in the UK during 2017 reached 285 million, so a £2 levy per night could raise £570 million – which could be used for tourism marketing, improving infrastructure and tackling overtourism.

In October 2018, Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon ordered a consultation into allowing councils to set local tourist taxes.

Edinburgh City Council has been calling for a ‘transient visitor levy’ and is holding its own consultation on plans to charge £2 per room, per night – which could raise £11 million a year to help cope with the impact of tourism on the Scottish capital.

The English city of Bath has also considered charging a levy of £1 or more to raise about £2.5 million a year, but tourism businesses fear it will be difficult to administer and deter visitors.

Meanwhile, Birmingham is looking at a possible charge on visitors to help pay for the 2022 Commonwealth Games which will be hosted in the city.

Elsewhere, Lake District MP Tim Farron has launched survey about a possible tourism levy but the concept was criticised by Cumbrian tourism bodies and hoteliers.

Paul Nelson of WTM London said: “It can seem galling for British holidaymakers to have to pay extra for a ‘tourism tax’ when they’re overseas, yet there are no similar levies here in the UK.

“Such a tax could raise hundreds of million of pounds a year which could be invested back into UK infrastructure.”

The hospitality and travel industries have been lobbying against such a levy pointing out that tourists already have to pay hefty taxes via VAT of 20% and Air Passenger Duty (APD), which are notably higher in the UK than elsewhere.

Trade body UKHospitality says the hospitality sector employs 2.9 million people, and represents 10% of UK employment, 6% of businesses and 5% of GDP.  While, UKinbound, which represents the inbound tourism trade, said overseas visitors contributed £24.5 billion to the economy in 2017 – making the tourism industry the UK’s fifth largest export earner.

“A tourism tax might seem one solution to a particular issue, but looking at the wider picture the inbound travel and hospitality industry would say it would seem wise not to kill the goose that lays the golden egg.”

World Travel Market London takes place at ExCeL – London between Monday 5 November and Wednesday 7 November. Around 50,000 senior industry executives fly into London to agree deals worth more than £3 billion. These deals are the holiday routes, hotels and packages that holidaymakers will experience in 2019.

World Travel Market London polled 1,025 2018 UK holidaymakers.

eTN is a media partner for WTM.

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