Tourism Tax Could Be Big Debate in London’s Next Mayoral Race

Aug 24, 2013 12:01 am

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Other major tourism cities throughout Europe depend on similar taxes to boost city revenue, but UK citizens already hammered with an air tax will protest any motion for additional fees.

— Samantha Shankman

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Metro Centric  / Flickr

A red tour bus travels through London. Metro Centric / Flickr

Labour is planning to introduce a “holiday tax” which will damage tourism in Britain and “destroy” coastal towns, Conservative cabinet ministers have claimed.

Sadiq Khan, the shadow lord chancellor, has said that the Mayor of London should be able to implement a tourism levy on hotels to help maintain attractions and invest in infrastructure.

Similar taxes, equivalent to up to £5 a night, are already in place in European cities including Barcelona, Hamburg, Amsterdam and Venice.

Graham Allen, the Labour chairman of the Political and Constitutional Affairs Committee, has said that town halls across the country should be free to impose tourism taxes.

Eric Pickles, the local government secretary, said: “Labour have been quietly drawing up plans to hammer hard-working people with a new holiday tax. This will push up the cost of living and destroy jobs in coastal towns and popular tourist destinations across the country.”

Maria Miller, culture secretary, added: “Labour’s plans will make having a holiday here far more expensive, which will drive people elsewhere and do terrible damage to this country’s tourism industry.”

Mr Khan, who is tipped as Labour’s next candidate for Mayor of London, said in an article in the London Evening Standard: “A healthy tourism industry in London means more visitors, more income and ultimately more jobs and opportunities for Londoners.

“We could tailor a tourism contribution that works for the tourism industry, doesn’t penalise local people and has the sole purpose of improving and promoting the city. This is just one example among many of the benefits of giving London more freedom over its own finances.”

A Labour source said: “We know that people facing a cost of living crisis caused by the Conservatives cannot afford to go on four summer holidays like the Prime Minister. Sadiq Khan was highlighting the need for London to have greater control of its finances. A tourist contribution is not Labour Party policy.

“We must keep London’s tourism industry in top shape and continue to promote our city around the world. But promotion costs money, as does looking after tourist attractions and maintaining London’s infrastructure to keep the city moving.”

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