Sinead Moore 10 Jan 2017 05:03pm

Bath considers introducing tourist tax

Bath could become the first city in the UK to introduce a tourist tax, charging visitors who stay overnight in a hotel or B&B in the city

A councillor in Bath has suggested introducing a “tourist bed tax” in Bath in order to generate additional revenue for the local authority.

Speaking on BBC Radio Bristol on Monday morning, Charles Gerrish, the Conservative cabinet member for finance and efficiency on the Bath and North East Somerset council said it would be similar to tourist levies that exist in many European countries, including Paris, Venice and Barcelona.

“Basically if you go on holiday in Europe, in many countries, when you stay in a hotel you are asked to make a very small contribution to the local authority in addition to your hotel bill,” Gerrish said.

He added that this is “quite a common method of local authority fundraising in Europe”.

Gerrish said the local authority in Bath should be allowed to consider implementing this method of raising funds given the number of visitors the city, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, hosts each year.

Harry Tedstone, chairman of the Bath Independent Guesthouse Association highlighted that the UK is already “one of the most expensive countries to come and visit” adding that European cities that charge the tourist tax only charge VAT of between 5 and 9% while the UK charges 20%.

Tedstone added, “The customer needs to know what that money is going towards.”

David James, chief executive of Visit Bath echoed Tedstone’s concerns, highlighting that Bath city is the second most expensive city in the UK, with London taking the top spot.

He said any money generated should be “ring-fenced back into tourism”.

James also urged the council not to "be the first to do it”, saying “we really don’t want the label of being the tax city of Britain” and adding that London can afford to do it before Bath.

For James, consultation is key on this controversial topic going forward.

A spokesperson for Bath and North East Somerset Council said, the idea of a tourism levy, which was first proposed by the council a number of years ago, would require a change in legislation by the government.

“The council has recently started to discuss the matter again with the government, and is exploring the feasibility with other local authorities. However, no decision can be made without a change in legislation at a national level. Consequently, no such proposal forms part of the current council budget.”

The spokesperson added, “As Bath welcomes such a large number of tourists from all over the world, it is sensible to consider the potential for increasing the council’s income to help support local services, invest in the local area and address the financial challenges it faces.

“Should the idea be taken forward in the future, then the Council would carefully consider the opinions of local residents and businesses to help shape the scheme.”