Visit Wales – Welsh Government’s tourism body – has held a series of roadshow events to give an update on tourism in Wales. The roadshows included speakers from local businesses, as well as presentations from Welsh Government on a range of topics. Perhaps most importantly for the CLA membership, the roadshows included an update on some of the biggest policy issues for tourism businesses.
The mood in the room was negative, with one speaker describing Welsh Government’s approach as “making tourism a dirty word”.
Review 182 and beyond
The CLA has worked with a group of tourism industry bodies, including the Wales Tourism Alliance, UK Hospitality Cymru and the Professional Association of Self Caterers (PASC), on a campaign asking Welsh Government to review the so called ‘182 days’ policy.
The policy requires all accommodation providers to have their properties available for 252 days a year, and be occupied for 182 days, in order to qualify for Business Rates. Properties that do not qualify for business rates must pay the second homes premium rate of council tax. The policy gives Local Authorities the power to increase council tax by up to 300% for second homes. The only exemption that exists is for properties where the planning permission limits them to being exclusively used as a holiday let.
According to the results of the Review 182 survey which we supported, only 50.7% of the accommodation providers had achieved the 182 days in the 2022 financial year. 70% of the respondents had had to offer a discount to achieve the booking level that they reached.
Despite this, Welsh Government made it clear at the roadshow that there will not be a review because the policy has been in place for just seven months.
We will continue to work with PASC and the Review 182 campaign to lobby Welsh Government to review the policy, and increase the number of exemptions.
Introduction of a Visitor Levy
The CLA has been clear from the start that a Visitor Levy (or “tourism tax” as it is sometimes known) would be hugely detrimental to the visitor economy. Such a tax will deter visitors and create more bureaucracy for accommodation providers. We also believe that it will hit rural areas hardest, because of the high proportion of small businesses which are less able to absorb the cost of administering the levy.
Welsh Government used the roadshow as an opportunity to give an update on the introduction of the visitor levy. They confirmed that the earliest date that the Visitor Levy could be introduced is 2027.
The Visitor Levy Bill will be introduced to the Senedd in Autumn 2024, meaning that Summer 2025 is the first opportunity for Local Authorities to consult on introducing the levy, assuming that the Bill goes through the Senedd quickly. Any local authority which consults on a levy will have to give a public notice of the decision in 2026, in order to introduce it by 2027.
The CLA is working with Welsh Government on the rural proofing of the levy, to address our concerns that a Visitor Levy would be disproportionately harmful to rural areas.
We know how important the visitor economy is to rural communities and diversified businesses, and will keep lobbying on the 182 days, the Visitor Levy and on other ways that Welsh Government can support the tourism industry, rather than hindering it.