Weary south coast residents want to charge vacationers to visit their popular beaches.
Residents of Dorset want to introduce a ‘tourist tax’ after being fed up with how beaches in Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole have been ‘trashed’ by careless tourists this summer.
Maris Lake, who lives in the area, started a petition on Change.org, calling on the council to introduce the tax which would charge anyone entering a defined area in the area.
Under Mr Lake’s plans, only locals or those with family in the area would be exempt from the tax which he hopes will be introduced over the summer months.
Holidaymakers have flocked to Dorset beaches this summer but locals are not happy. They say tourists are leaving ‘trashed’ beaches and want to impose a ‘tourist tax’ during the summer months
Mr. Lake told the Echo of Bournemouth: ‘We know how our beaches end up after the weekend – I think all locals are aware of that.
“When something is free, people abuse it. If people had to pay, it could change their mentality.
The tourist tax is currently used abroad, including in Spain, France, Greece and Portugal, and it is not the first time that it has been considered on the south coast.
Bournemouth, Christchurch, Poole councilor Vikki Slade said: ‘We thought about it a few years ago, and if we could work on it, we were concerned it would make the Bournemouth and Poole area less attractive compared to its competitors.
“If it could be handled properly, I think it’s something worth considering.”
“It’s really hard to expect the local taxpayer to spend so much of their resources on things that are primarily about visitor behavior.”
Paddlers make their way through rubbish strewn sand at 6am after a very busy day on Bournemouth beach during the July heatwave. Holiday town officials have already come under fire after it emerged no fines were issued for bedbugs last year
But not all council members think taxing visitors is a good idea.
Councilor Beverley Dunlop said: “Keeping our beaches in pristine condition is an investment at no cost to local taxpayers. All of our leisure, culture, events and festivals are funded by seafront revenue, which also generates millions of pounds in support of other services.
“Taxing” visitors would be an extraordinary move for a UK destination, highly impractical, intrusive and would actively deter visitors, jeopardizing all the benefits they bring to our region.
“Visitors and locals all have a role to play in respecting our waterfront. We welcome anyone who appreciates the beauty and vibrancy of the BCP region. We encourage these visitors to stay at our hotels and enjoy our waterfront and cities at all times.
Petition creator Mr Lake, however, said there was ‘no evidence’ that a tourist tax would harm the herds of people heading to the Dorset coast every summer.
He said: ‘The tourist tax is in place in many countries in Europe, and it just provides additional funding to the pot of local councils.
“There is no evidence that it actually hurts tourism, on the contrary, it improves it because you have extra funds to do things.”
Mr. Lake’s petition currently has 162 signatures.
Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole council staff recover an abandoned tent on Bournemouth beach. Locals call for introduction of tourist tax to stop littering on sandy beaches
He said: ‘It could easily be done through a license plate recognition system, and permits could be managed online and granted to family members who come to visit or something.
“Money from this tourist tax could be used for much needed BCP improvements.
“It would limit tourism – wouldn’t prevent it entirely – but more importantly it would reduce the amount of money spent cleaning beaches each weekend during the season and would in fact allow the money earned from the tourist tax to be reused in BCP improvements or at the very least pay to clean the beaches – rather than being taken from local tax money.
The petition set up by Dorset resident Maris Lakes currently has 162 signatures. He said: ‘We know how our beaches end after the weekend – I think all the locals are aware of that’
The council had already come under fire from locals after it was revealed that no fines were issued to those littering the beach last year.
Earlier this year, Wales announced it was considering a tourist levy for all overnight visitors to help pay for local services such as beach cleanliness, park maintenance and construction new trails.
Rebecca Evans, Minister for Finance and Local Government, said in February: “Visitor taxes are a common feature in tourist destinations internationally. They are an opportunity for visitors to invest in local infrastructure and services, which in turn make tourism a success.
“Without such a levy, local communities face an excessive burden to fund local services and benefits that tourists depend on.”
The Welsh visitor’s tax has not been confirmed and proposals will start in autumn 2022 – the amount of the tax has yet to be decided.
Hospitality bosses, however, called the idea ‘crazy’, saying it would ‘decimate’ the holiday industry in Wales.
Ashford Price, secretary of the Welsh Association of Tourist Attractions, demanded the plans be scrapped amid a “growing sense of anti-English and anti-tourist sentiment” within the Welsh government.
“How many of our potential customers will just vote with their feet and go to Devon or Ireland or Scotland rather than pay a new tax at a time when they are trying to deal with a personal cost of living crisis?” He asked.
William Lees-Jones, who runs the 194-year-old JW Lees Brewery chain, warned that any new tax would mean potential tourists would travel to Spain rather than Wales.
He told MailOnline: ‘He [the tourist tax] will be a disaster. People will end up going to Spain instead.
Others echoed his sentiment. One person told the Daily Post: ‘It’s already more expensive to stay in Wales for a week than to have a two week all-inclusive holiday in Spain.’
“A tax would increase that cost, so they hurt each other.”