Tax the tourists?

The tourist season in full swing.

Bath shares with Venice the honour of being one of only two European cities to have a blanket World Heritage status  bestowed upon its historic centre but, it seems, the Italian recipient is taking the lead in trying to protect what is precious.

My partner spotted this article in the ‘I ‘newspaper yesterday.

While we are talking about some sort of tax on tourism to help to swell our austere coffers, La Serinissima is going ahead and introducing an additional levy its visitors will have to budget for..

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The big difference here is that, in Venice, day-trippers will pay the tax to enter as the city tries to reduce numbers at certain times of the year. People already pay a city tax if they stay overnight.

Not sure that we want to put people off coming to admire Bath’s history and heritage but  taking the lead on an accommodation-based tax would certainly help out our beleaguered local finances.

Meanwhile, regular Bath Newseum follower Jeremy Labram writes:

“This is an interesting one – you have to be careful what you wish for. Whatever you tax generally makes it less desirable.

The Venetians want to reduce tourist numbers by taxing them to improve their quality of life. For many residents serving those tourists, their quality of life is sustained by the money those tourists spend.

Another angle Venice hint at is improving the experience for those that do visit by rationing numbers. Psychologically this seems much more sensible to me – less hustle and bustle and shorter queues for visitors, and it also hints at scarcity of opportunity. And scarcity means people are willing to pay more to visit.

One way of doing it sounds unwelcoming. Another sounds earnest and caring. Surely Bath needs to get the definition of the problem right before resorting to ill thought out measures.

As a resident I’m glad and proud people do want to come to experience why the city of Bath has blanket world heritage status and I want them to feel welcome and have a good time.

For example if Bath has an over-crowding problem then it is perhaps related to pressure points, like the station and coach parks, and the warmer seasons and specific events, week-ends and bank holidays and really only acute during the day. So taxing evening activities and overnight accommodation would be a misdirected focus.

I think it is quite possible to uphold our civic pride, make ourselves welcoming and encourage people to spend more on a great experience whilst they are here and create wealth for the city and its all its inhabitants.”