AS the rugby and football seasons draw to a close attention can turn to free weekends and time away with the family.

All across Wales - particularly in our coastal towns and villages in the west and north - the tourist industry is winding up for peak season and with it tensions about the vexed issue of a local charge (aka the tourist tax).

Tensions in the form of an agitated business lobby reflexively bridling at anything that resembles a lumberjack’s breakfast (begins with a tea, ends with an axe). 


Vexed in way that many sensible European ideas are castigated as being inherently anti-English, an Aggro- Saxon bubble of paranoia popped so well here by Leigh Jones just a few weeks ago.

There are things we know to be true. Wales’s coastal and rural communities do indeed massively rely on intra-Britain tourism, which brings over £5billion to the Welsh economy annually.

They also receive visitors from all across the world and, as anyone trying to book a last-minute week away this summer will testify, business for summer 2022 seems to be plenty healthy.

So why would there even be a debate about the economics of a nominal local charge that would contribute to the upkeep and sustainability of our communities in these areas?

Are visitors to Wales so price conscious that £1/night would deter a visit? Perhaps some, but if there’s anything we’ve learned over the last couple of years that the urge for people from the English North-West and Midlands to visit Wales is so strong that they still did it even when it was literally illegal during the pandemic.

READ MORE: Calls for Welsh Government to abandon ‘regressive’ tourism tax dismissed

What the hand-wringing over the plans to allow an introduction of a local charge reveal is that there is an overarching sense of undervaluation and fragility about what we offer tourists to Wales.

Yes, of course many businesses had a difficult time over the pandemic and some business models are more cost sensitive than others but we simply shouldn’t be prioritising low cost, low value experiences over a modest revenue generation for cash-strapped local authorities that provide the invisible subsidies to those businesses (car parking, roads, waste management).

In the era of an actual housing, energy, and poverty crisis we need to generate every penny that we can for our poorest communities.

READ MORE: Tory calls taxes to address second homes problem a 'sledgehammer to crack a nut'

You know who doesn’t compete on price? London, Edinburgh, the Alps… pretty much everywhere that is confident in its offer.

Tourists to London pay a tourist tax, it’s called *visiting London* where everything is a few pounds more expensive. This can’t be said to affect visitor numbers!

Locking ourselves into the chains of competing on cost not quality and a mindset of ‘don’t trigger the Daily Mail, whatever the cost’ is self-perpetuating poverty of ambition and pocket.

Until we shift the perception of value in our tourism industry and move the centre of gravity from low cost commodity experiences towards higher quality, higher margin business, we also lock ourselves into self-imposed cage of lower wages for all.

Experts rightly argue that we should be more ambitious here and try to create regional economies that give people a reason to choose to build a career locally instead of moving further afield.

For too long the legacy of post-industrial Wales selling its lower wages as an asset (we’re still looking at you Cardiff Capital Region) has cast a long shadow over our sense of self. It doesn’t have to be this way and we shouldn’t be repeating 20th century mistakes in the 21st.

You only have to look towards the food and drink sector to find examples of Welsh businesses taking pride in their produce and marketing it appropriately to see that the it can reap rewards.

Few would consider water and salt as premium products but Tŷ Nant and Halen Môn have carved out rewarding niches alongside Snowdonia Cheese and Penderyn Whisky on menus across the globe.

No-one sensibly argues that sales tax shouldn’t apply on these great Welsh products so why do we even countenance that a tax on a great location.

READ MORE: Llandudno and Tenby among UK's favourite seaside resorts

Wales is an amazing place and we should project our confidence that whatever price is charged to tourists represents good value and accept that anti-English bloviating is a price we should be willing to pay for a confident, distinct and high value tourism offer and powerful legislation to reduce the burden of holiday/second homes in our tourist hot spots.

The question ultimately becomes one that asks, ‘if we don’t show pride and respect for our nation and regions when people visit, why should we expect them to show our traditional beauty spots respect when they are Dun-roam-in?

Richard Martin is a producer and screenwriter. He produces Hiraeth, Wales’s leading politics and policy podcast

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