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What Can Wales Learn From Tourism Taxes Abroad?

Wales should look towards European countries for guidance when implementing a planned tourism tax, according to a social housing campaigner. The Welsh government plans to introduce legislation within the next two years so local authorities can raise tax from their visitors. But Wallis George, a former housing association chief, said it was imperative politicians learned lessons from tax systems abroad to ensure a new levy in Wales had a positive impact on its communities. The Welsh government said it had talked to other nations and “visitor levies are commonplace across the world, with revenues used to benefit local authorities”.

Plans to introduce such a tax have prompted concerns by some tourism industry leaders and the Welsh Conservatives that it could lead to fewer But those who support the plans maintain it could be a chance to invest in local infrastructure. The Welsh government said it had been in conversation with counterparts in New Zealand and Spain, such as Catalonia and the Balearic Islands. In cities like Barcelona in Catalonia, a tourism tax, external puts a premium on overnight, external stays costing €2.75 (£2.35) a night for seven nights in 2023 as its council tries to balance the impact, external of 28m annual visitors compared with 1.6m residents., external

It has been a hot topic in Valencia, a region in southern Spain, as the party in power at the beginning of the year had planned to adopt such a tax on its visitors. But, after a change in power in regional elections in May, the incumbent Conservative politicians are said to be considering repealing legislation, according to local reports. In the city of Valencia, where Vincenzo Costabule’s rental bike shop is located, tourists use his bicycles as an easy way to get around. He does not completely oppose a tax on tourists but does question the timing.

“We’ve just emerged from [the] pandemic where shops and commerce generally saw a big drop in sales,” he said. “It’s been a really tough time in our lives and I think now is the time to help those who work and are in shops. “I don’t think it’s a good time to impose tax on tourism or anything else.” A tourism tax is used in Barcelona, where regulations have been adopted to mitigate over-tourism – but there is still a concern about housing.

Meic Alger has lived in the area for more than 30 years and, as he walks along the city’s famous street, La Rambla, he points towards flats above, noting the majority are either hotels or Airbnb rentals. “You need a lot of money to rent a flat here. It’s impossible here for young people,” he said. “Usually people live with their parents until they’re like 30-35, it’s impossible to find a flat.” It is a debate that stretches back to Wales where, in tourist hotspots like Llanberis in Gwynedd, the call for action continues about over-tourism and affordable housing.

Wallis George, a former head of a housing association in north Wales, is now a campaigner with Cymdeithas yr Iaith, the Welsh language society. “I think it’s incumbent on Welsh government and others interested in social policy to learn lessons from elsewhere, where there are similar problems,” he said. “Different approaches have been taken and we need to learn what has worked but we also need to learn what hasn’t worked. “I think the evidence is overwhelming that we need to generate income to mitigate the impact and it is a matter of fairness.” The Welsh government said its “intention is to foster a sense of shared responsibility between residents and visitors to protect and invest in local areas and encourage a more sustainable approach for tourism”.

Source: BBC