A WELSH tourist attraction boss has told MPs he fears any new taxation that might impact tourists.

Paul Lewin, general manager of Ffestiniog and Welsh Highland Railways, told Parliament's Welsh Affairs Committee he would be concerned at the potential "bad PR" a specific tax could create.

Instead he said he would rather see a less obvious increase in VAT. 

Lewin told the Welsh Affairs Committee meeting in Westminster: "I would say I'm less worried about VAT and more worried about a 'Tourism Tax'. I'd rather the income was gained through VAT than through a tourism tax, because there's talk of a tourism tax and I dread it. 

"The bad PR that could create for us fills me with fear for our business and the reputation of our country." 

The hospitality sector experienced a temporary reduction on the rate of VAT to 5 per cent to aid in the industry's recovery from Covid restrictions and Ruth Jones, MP for Newport West, had asked if such a measure would have a positive impact if it were re-introduced.

The committee is examing tourism in Wales and Stephen Davies, chief executive of Penderyn Distillery, Ian Roberts, finance director of Italianate tourist village Portmeirion, and Sean Taylor, founder and president of the Zip World attractions all gave evidence. 

Taxes on visitors are seen as a way of covering the costs incurred by increased demand on local services that are caused by temporary increases in population in tourist areas.

Following last year's Senedd election first minister Mark Drakeford told BBC Wales a tourism levy, raised by local authorities, could be used to support the tourism sector by funding local facilities and resources.

A levy of €4 per person per night is raised at hotels in Paris.

Last month, Jean-François Rial, president of the Paris Tourist Office, said that Paris and the French Riviera had seen 20 per cent more tourists between April 15-18, compared to 2019. Hotels in Paris had an 82 per cent occupancy rate at Easter this year.

In Florida a 6 per cent tax is added to all hotel room charges. In Orange County in the state, a record $34.7m was raised by this tax in April - the highest ever revenue for April and the second highest monthly total ever.

READ MORE: OPINION: Claims a tourist tax in Wales is anti-English are absurd

In Florida a 6 per cent tax is added to all hotel room charges. In Orange County in the state, a record $34.7m was raised by this tax in April - the highest ever revenue for April and the second highest monthly total ever.

Sean Taylor of Zip World had told the committe other countries had lower rates of sales tax.

And Lewin said he feared a specific tax would deter potential customers: "I'd rather quietly have a slightly higher level of VAT - not more than twenty per cent - I'd rather see it dealt with through VAT rather than an obvious, different tax, which would just turn away customers overnight".

VAT is determined, and collected, by the Westminster Treasury while a consultation on draft proposals for a tourist tax or levy is due to be launched by the Welsh Government in the autumn.

The Welsh Government’s Programme for Government, and the cooperation agreement between it and Plaid Cymru, both contain commitments to introduce levies.

Also during the hearing, Sean Taylor of Zip World said that the Welsh language needed to be "weaponized" and promoted in efforts to market the country to international tourists.

READ MORE: Rebrand Wales to 'get away from sheep, wet weather and rugby', says tourism boss

Stephen Davies of Penderyn, which welcomes visitors to its distilleries in the Brecon Beacons and Llandudno, shared concern around travel problems with big events in Cardiff saying that "people will not come back if they have that bad experience, they'll think twice".

Meanwhile, Ian Roberts of Portmeirion said that "the poor road and rail networks in north Wales" were a barrier to attracting more visitors from England.

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