Make our tourist pay towards city upkeep?

Bath shares with Venice the honour of being one of the only two European cities to enjoy World Heritage status and be in a position to reap the tourist benefits of that UNESCO-given accolade.

roman baths
The Great Bath – part of the Roman bathing complex built around the thermal waters.

However, unlike Venice – and every other Italian city – it does not benefit from a tourist tax.

The ‘Queen of the Adriatic’ charges a rate according to how many stars the hotel you are staying in has. A fair way of making the rich pay slightly more.

In the grand scheme of things – when major expenses like flights meals and car hire have been taken into account – a couple of extra pounds on your hotel won’t create many ripples in the Lagoon.


We may not have gondolas but we do have river trips and enough Roman archaeology and Georgian architecture to keep our visitors happy – without the fear of falling into a canal.

The Roman Baths makes money and helps keep our rates down but surely we should be looking at other ways of funding the expense of maintaining and improving our ‘heritage bank’ of tourist-attracting goodies.

busking abbey churchyard
Abbey Church Yard is a popular place and a good spot for buskers.

I thought a Tourist Tax was being talked about already? Things have gone rather quiet. Maybe the Council’s backroom boys and girls are even now beavering away on just such a project!

Think – if it came into being – we’d be the first city in the country to introduce it. I may be wrong.

While we are on the subject of heritage and money.  B&NES is still littered with quaint little buildings that started life as toll houses.

This corner building used to be a toll house on the London Road.

It’s where you paid the Turnpike Trust to be able to use the privately-funded fine specimen of a road that stretched in front of your horse-drawn carriage.

Some may feel its time to make all those cars and lorries  –  which daily choke our city streets and pollute the air we breathe – pay for the damage they inflict with a Congestion Charge.

What do you all think?


  1. Definitely no.
    I’ve stayed in lots of cities that do it, including Venice. When you see it on your bill it just looks stupid. I mean, I don’t think to myself “I’m never going back there again”, but I think more along the lines of “How petty. I’ve just put several thousand pounds into this cities economy through the hotel bill, meals out every day, tourist attractions and so on. Is this how they thank me?”.
    If Bath really needs the cash, then charge it through the business rates of the establishments the tourists visit. And let the businesses pass it on to the tourists by raising their prices. Just don’t let it be itemised on the bill for them to see.

  2. Regarding congestion charging…
    Firstly, the best way to avoid through traffic is to make the alternative routes better. Would people choose to use the London Road and drive through Bath if there was a better route such as the A36/A46 link? Similarly, we might complain about the East/West traffic, but we haven’t built the alternative tunnel put forward by Colin Buchanan so of course people travel right across the city.
    Secondly, ‘congestion’ is an interesting term. It could be suggested that the road designs of the council have deliberately increased congestion (with the ideological notion of persuading people onto alternative transportation) rather than designing to achieve the maximum throughput. If all the changes of the last 20 years were undone, all the newly installed traffic lights removed, and so on, then the ‘congestion’ would probably reduce and throughput would increase.
    But regarding pollution…
    It’s unfortunate. Government policy regarding CO2 emissions has forced people into Diesel vehicles. But it’s those very diesel vehicles are the ones that are choking us with toxic pollution. The simple way to improve air quality would be to ban Diesel vehicles from our cities. Or I’d suggest taxing diesel vehicles based on weight (e.g. diesel car, diesel light commercial, diesel heavy commercial). But I’d have a degree of sympathy for a diesel vehicle owner who might argue “They told me I was doing the right thing by choosing diesel instead of petrol and saving the polar bears”.

    1. This idea that you can create solve congestion through improving traffic flow has been discounted. The effect is known as “induced demand”. If you make a route quicker (maximise throughput), it attracts more traffic becoming more congested.

      The real issue is that central government has slowly eroded the funding the councils need to deliver good public transport and well maintained roads. People thought that Ken Livingston was mad to implement a congestion charge in London, but it successfully reduced congestion by 20% and continues to do so.

      There is also a focus on A36/A46 bypass, without realising that when the A36 was closed, the world did not end. Traffic worked it’s way around the issue. A congestion charge is a valid and reasonable way for the council to fund better public transport and maintain the roads of BaNES. Even just a diesel congestion charge would have a significant impact overnight.

  3. Today’s report from the Department of Transport:

    “Diesel engines play a significant role in causing poor air quality at the road side… a diesel engine, by its nature, tends to produce higher emissions of NOx and particulate matter than a petrol engine. These two emissions are the most important in relation to health.”
    “Diesels make up 38% of the British licensed car fleet. This has grown from only 7% in 1994…”
    “…tests have found higher levels of nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions in test track and real world driving conditions than in the laboratory for all manufacturer’s vehicles, with results varying significantly between different makes and models.”

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