Hoteliers in York are fighting a proposed tourist tax which they say could have "detrimental implications" for the city's businesses and economy.
Labour-controlled York City Council is considering a proposal by the York Fairness Commission - set up as a non-political body to consider local priorities in the light of budget cuts - to levy a £1 per head per night contribution on all visitors to the historic city.
Known as the York Visitor Heritage Contribution, the tax, according to a report from the York Fairness Commission, "could raise a significant amount of money each year to help alleviate the pressures of being a world-class tourist destination, to invest in maintaining the sustainable growth of the sector, and to relieve pressure on other areas of the council's budget where funds are used to support tourism activity".
It is suggested that caps will be put in place to ensure charges are at a level which do not deter visitors.
However, Lionel Chatard (pictured), chairman of the York Hoteliers Association and director of Middlethorpe Hall hotel, said that hoteliers in York were fiercely opposed to the idea.
"Every hotel in York pays substantial amounts in business rates, and an additional tax for tourists - which is not applied in cities we compete with, such as Edinburgh, Chester and Bath - would be a terrible mistake," he explained.
"If York suddenly became £1 a night more expensive to visit, I'd be extremely concerned we would lose a lot of visitors as they might choose to go to other cities or abroad. The economic climate is already challenging for hotels and it would be very bad PR for the city.
"The council needs to be very, very careful about this, and we oppose it strongly."
Visit York chief executive Gillian Cruddas said that, while she fully supported the aims of the commission, it was also important to protect and nurture York's important tourism sector, which generates 23,000 jobs in the city.
"Most importantly, York has to be able to compete on a level playing field with other cities across Britain and Europe. Visit York's tourism strategy focuses on income generation and visitor spend, rather than volume, and visitors already generate £443m of income for York annually.
"These recommendations by the commission would need to be very carefully considered in light of this."
A report by York City Council's strategy and development officer, Jane Collingwood, highlights the conflicting issues surrounding a proposed tourist tax.
"The council would not want to implement a charge or tax which could deter visitors, impose an administrative burden on local businesses and potentially undermine the profitability of this sector of the local economy," she said.
"However, the council is prepared to explore all ideas which could help increase income to the city and the council from this sector."
The commission's report will go before the council's cabinet next week.
By Janet Harmer
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