Call for Northumberland 'tourism tax' powers to help cope with visitor numbers

More than half of residents think their council should have powers to introduce a local tourism levy, according to a new survey.

By Ben O'Connell
Monday, 24th February 2020, 11:19 am
Updated Monday, 24th February 2020, 1:52 pm
Bamburgh Castle
Bamburgh Castle

New public polling by Populus for the Local Government Association (LGA) found that 53% of those surveyed think their local authority should be able to charge tourists a small fee to help fund local services that support tourism in their area.

In its submission to the forthcoming Budget, the LGA, which represents councils, sets out how the Government can introduce measures to hand local areas more freedom and control over their own finances and greater ability to grow their own economies.

As part of this, it is calling on the Government to use its Tourism Sector Deal prospectus to invite areas keen to become a tourist zone to make the case for piloting a local tourism levy.

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Most European cities have tourism taxes, which are levied via the hotel sector and tend to be set and administered locally by the relevant municipal authority.

LGA-commissioned independent research found that a pound-per-night levy applied in a local area in England could raise between £238,000 and more than £7million a year depending on the area.

Figures released last August show that Northumberland welcomed 10.48million visitors during 2018, a 2% increase on 2017, and that they spent more than £1billion in the county.

Northumberland County Council is actively seeking to attract more tourists and visitors to the area, through its Discover Our Land campaign, although this also aims to target new residents, businesses and investors.

On a more local level, Alnmouth recently became the second village on the north Northumberland coast to reveal that it was seeking to raise a levy on its holiday homes.

The parish council is planning to send a letter to holiday-let owners in the village requesting a £25 donation. This follows Bamburgh Parish Council raising more than £1,000 after approaching every holiday home for the same.

Coun Gerald Vernon-Jackson, chairman of the LGA’s culture, tourism and sport board, said: “Councils are best-placed to boost visitor economies and are trying to find innovative ways of supporting and boosting culture and heritage.”