Tourism tax “backward step” parks tell BBC Wales

A tourism tax would hit multiple businesses in Wales, Thomas Scarrott (left) told BBC reporter Carl Roberts

A tourism tax would hit multiple businesses in Wales, Thomas Scarrott (left) told BBC reporter Carl Roberts

The owner of a major holiday parks group in Wales has told ministers that they risk devastating the visitor economy if they push ahead with a tourism tax.

Speaking on BBC’s Sunday Politics Wales programme, Thomas Scarrott said that such a move would undermine all the fantastic work done by the Welsh Government to encourage tourism.

Thomas’s warning came during a filmed interview at Grondre Holiday Park in Pembrokeshire, one of seven holiday parks owned by his family’s Vale Holiday Parks.

A tourism tax is one of four potential new taxes being considered by ministers, and would result in visitors to Wales having to pay an extra per-night charge.

But Thomas told Sunday Politics Wales reporter Carl Roberts that a visitor levy would hit not just accommodation providers such as his parks.

It would also have a damaging knock-on effect on the many businesses which rely on the tourism industry such as pubs, shops, cafes and visitor attractions.

Visitor hot-spots such as Tenby (above) could suffer

Visitor hot-spots such as Tenby (above) could suffer visitor fall-offs

Many of these, said Thomas, are smaller family-owned businesses such as Vale Holidays which sustain thousands of jobs throughout Wales.

The programme reported industry figures which show that tourism is worth around £5bn to the Welsh economy with more than 10 million overnight stays being recorded annually.

Thomas believes that this is evidence of Wales’s appeal as a holiday destination, and of the success of the Welsh Government in wooing visitors from elsewhere in the UK and overseas.

He highlighted this year’s £5m Visit Wales’ Year of Legends campaign which, he said, did a great job in promoting the many different experiences on offer to holiday visitors.

The only possible consequence of a tourism tax, Thomas told the programme, would be fewer visitors and an additional administration burden on tourism businesses.

Thomas’s family has been involved with the parks industry for almost 50 years, providing holiday homes to rent and to own, and pitches for touring caravans, motorhomes and tents.

Thomas’s concerns were echoed on the programme by a spokesperson from Pembrokeshire Tourism who said the suggested tax would without doubt deter tourists.

If there was no tourist tax in England, he said, then that’s where visitors would be heading.

Ministers say they will decide early next year on which of the four possible taxes they would prefer to implement, subject to go-ahead from the UK Government.

Meanwhile, the park industry body BH&HPA and many of its park members in Wales are making urgent representations to Welsh ministers and assembly members.

They point out that such a revenue raising tax would be “entirely self-defeating” in its aims.

The edition of Sunday Politics in Wales which features the report can be viewed on the BBC iPlayer linked below, starting 38 minutes into the programme: