Daily Post article: Support for tourism sector in North Wales

Posted on 20th March, 2024

It is an understatement to observe that tourism is essential to North Wales. Many of the region’s towns were built specifically to serve the needs of holidaymakers and, even in this age of affordable overseas travel, the sector remains key to the local economy. Tourism generates around £3.6 billion per annum and supports the livelihoods of some 37,500 people.

Self catering makes a major contribution to North Wales tourism. I was therefore disappointed to hear Chancellor Jeremy Hunt, in what was otherwise a pro-business Budget statement on 6th March, announce he was abolishing the Furnished Holiday Lettings tax regime. A large number of local people depend on letting out furnished holiday accommodation and changes to the regime will mean, for example, that operators will be unable to set off expenses incurred in running their business against tax.

Precise details of the proposals have yet to emerge, but I have written to the Chancellor expressing my concern and requesting him to reconsider, which I very much hope he will do.

Sadly, tourism has taken a significant battering from various levels of government over recent years. The Welsh Government, in particular, appear blissfully unaware of the importance of tourism to North Wales and have proposed measure after measure seemingly designed to make the lives of operators increasingly more difficult.

Thus, we have the proposed “visitor levy”, commonly known as the tourist tax, which is due to be introduced in 2025. Visitors will be required to make a payment for every night they stay in Wales, irrespective of the wider contribution they make to the local economy simply by being here. Those visitors may decide to spend their cash in Cornwall, the Lake District or the Isle of Wight instead.

Then there is the proposed “Sustainable Farming Scheme”, which will squeeze the profitability of farmers by requiring them to take 20 percent of their land out of production. Many farmers who have diversified into holiday accommodation may find their incomes so hard hit that there is no point staying in business.

And then, of course, there is the 20mph speed limit now imposed in most built-up areas across Wales. This is a measure so uniformly hated that it prompted a 470,000-signature petition on the Senedd’s website – extraordinary when one considers that the entire population of Wales is only around 3.1 million. Coupled with the reputation for an excess of speed cameras that dates back to the tenure of a certain former Chief Constable, this is a real disincentive to holidaying in the region. “Come to North Wales and go home with a speeding ticket” is not the snappiest of marketing slogans.

There is a genuine feeling among tourism operators that the Cardiff administration is positively hostile towards the visitor economy. If true, that is a great shame. North Wales is one of the most scenically attractive areas of Europe, with a hospitality industry that has made huge strides forward over recent decades. It should be helped to flourish, not beaten down.

Contact David

Write a message to David online; make an appointment to speak with him in-person, virtually or by telephone; and enquire about arranging a visit to Westminster, including tickets to watch PMQs