No plans for Toon tourist tax

Ed­in­burgh scheme won’t be copied here ... for now

Sunday Sun - - News - By Daniel Hol­land Lo­cal democ­racy re­porter­me­

NEW­CAS­TLE has ruled out mim­ick­ing Ed­in­burgh’s at­tempts to im­pose a “tourist tax” on vis­i­tors to the city.

The Scot­tish cap­i­tal is propos­ing a tran­sient vis­i­tor levy (TVL) that could see tourists charged an ex­tra £2 a night or 2% ex­tra on the over­all cost of their ho­tel room – po­ten­tially rais­ing an ex­tra £11m a year.

City coun­cil bosses in New­cas­tle, how­ever, say they have no in­ten­tion of fol­low­ing their Ed­in­burgh coun­ter­parts’ lead. Just as Ed­in­burgh’s pro­posal is de­pen­dent on the sup­port of the Scot­tish gov­ern­ment to pro­ceed, lead­ers in New­cas­tle would not have the power to im­pose such a tax on their own.

A coun­cil spokesper­son said: “The coun­cil has no pow­ers to in­tro­duce a Tran­sient Vis­i­tor Levy, so this is not some­thing we would con­sider.”

Tourism levies are used in many Euro­pean coun­tries, but are yet to be im­ple­mented in the UK.

Fol­low­ing the suc­cess of events such as the Great Ex­hi­bi­tion of the North in boost­ing the num­ber of vis­i­tors to Ty­ne­side, some say the ex­tra charges could be an “at­trac­tive propo­si­tion” at a time when fund­ing is hard to come by.

Sarah Ste­wart, chief ex­ec­u­tive at des­ti­na­tion man­age­ment and mar­ket­ing or­gan­i­sa­tion New­castleGateshead Ini­tia­tive, said: “We’ve been keep­ing a watch­ing brief on de­vel­op­ments re­gard­ing tourism tax for a num­ber of years.

“Cities such as Liver­pool and Hull have in­ves­ti­gated im­ple­ment­ing such a tax, while Birm­ing­ham is set to in­tro­duce a ho­tel tax to help fund the Com­mon­wealth Games in 2022. Such schemes may be able to gen­er­ate sig­nif­i­cant re­source to de­velop their tourism of­fer and grow vis­i­tor econ­omy.

“A tourism tax is thus an at­trac­tive propo­si­tion be­cause of the abil­ity to gen­er­ate much-needed re­source for the con­tin­ued growth of the tourism in­dus­try.

“How­ever, its in­tro­duc­tion would re­quire wide­spread sup­port from across the sec­tor to be suc­cess­ful. We con­tinue to work closely with lo­cal pub­lic and pri­vate part­ners to build the tourism in­dus­try in the re­gion and last year tourists vis­it­ing New­castleGateshead con­trib­uted £1.62bn to the econ­omy, an in­crease of 3% from 2016.

“This year we have hosted the big­gest event in Eng­land in 2018, Great Ex­hi­bi­tion of the North, and look­ing for­ward we have many other ma­jor events in the pipe­line that, along­side the re­gion’s at­trac­tions, ex­pe­ri­ences and food and drink of­fer­ing, will con­tinue to bring vis­i­tors to the re­gion.”

Ho­tel bosses in the re­gion say if any kind of ex­tra charges were im­posed on their guests, they would want guar­an­tees the ex­tra in­come would be used to di­rectly boost tourism to the North East.

Bernard Blood­worth, chair­man of the North East Ho­tels As­so­ci­a­tion, said: “This is some­thing that has been on our radar for a num­ber of years.

“There is a mixed bag of views from our mem­bers – some peo­ple are very much against it but oth­ers are more sup­port­ive, be­cause they can see that there is very lit­tle money about to help drive busi­ness and tourism in the re­gion.

“The over­whelm­ing view is that if this was ever to hap­pen, the ho­tels in ques­tion would want some sort of say in how the money is spent.” Coun­cil bosses have ruled out im­pos­ing a tourism tax on vis­i­tors to New­cas­tle for the time be­ing

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