A tourism leader in North Wales has slammed Airbnb for its “cynical support” for a Welsh Government plan to tax the industry.
Jim Jones, the chief executive of North Wales Tourism, described the plan to impose the controversial Tourism Tax as a “flawed idea”.
Airbnb have said they back the idea and that they want to work with the Welsh Government in a bid to tackle so-called “over tourism”.
But Mr Jones was not impressed saying that any additional levy would be counterproductive and deter visitors from coming to North Wales and play to the “anti-visitor mantra”.
With Covid restrictions being eased, the last thing that was needed was a tax that would encourage “staycationers” to go to other parts of the UK instead.
Mr Jones said: “North Wales is increasingly recognised as a world class visitor destination with international and UK wide appeal, we have the opportunity to significantly grow the value of tourism to the local economy and region as a whole.
“Instead of the Welsh Government prioritising the recovery and optimistically talking growth, such as a 1% increase in tourism spend which would add an extra £20m to the economy, we find ourselves back to 2017 when the then Finance Minister Mark Drakeford was trying to push through four new taxes, one being tourism tax.
“We told him then as we tell him now, this is not welcomed by the majority of the industry. I
“It is counterproductive and will damage our economic performance, brand and prospects. It will also increase social exclusion, undermine policies to create a healthier and more active Wales, limit opportunities for economic growth in Welsh-speaking heartlands and disproportionately impact those least able to afford to take a holiday.
“It is extremely insensitive that the Welsh Government are talking about this and could not have come at a worse time for our industry, raising the subject knowing full well it will play into the anti-visitor mantra.
“Welsh tourism and hospitality businesses pay business rates to Welsh Government, revenue ALL generated through visitor spend and so already a tax on tourism spend.
“In my view the whole tourism tax model is flawed in Wales as local authorities already get an enhanced grant towards increased visitor numbers.
“Are the Local Authorities prepared to relinquish a grant from Welsh Government to undertake a massive logistic challenge of extracting taxes from business, a number of our businesses who have already said they will not collect any form of tourism tax.
“Most local authorities are sitting on huge financial reserves following the pandemic, this should also be challenged of what any additional revenue will be used for, when they can’t spend the money they already have.
“I’m also very disappointed that Airbnb have come out to support a tourism tax, I believe this is a cynical move by Airbnb who now charge hosts 15% commission.
“They are not on a level playing field with our serviced accommodation sector, there is a statutory misalignment – whereby many Airbnb hosts can have no business insurance nor public liability insurance, have no responsibility to test electronic equipment and can freely dispose of waste through their local authority as if domestic tenants.
“Of course, once they have the same statutory obligations as us, then they can contribute to the discussion, but as it stands, they are unequal partners in this industry and their opinion in my view is redundant.
“A majority of Airbnb owners are not registered for business rates and are unregulated, so how on earth would they propose to ensure compliance?
“The Welsh Government should be undertaking an urgent reform, on a system that is currently unfair, as they tax and punish success in hospitality businesses, because it’s being based on turnover, much of which is unprofitable.”