Liverpool City Region are proposing the introduction of a tourism levy, a proposal which like other before it presents a further opportunity to try and break the mould when it comes to funding destination management and support for the tourism, leisure and cultural industries.
The city could be a “test bed for the rest of the country”, Liverpool City Region metro mayor Steve Rotheram said as the findings of a report is launched that recommends that the City Region should seek to pilot a hotel bed tax to support culture and tourism; a move that will of course require active Government support and quite possibly Primary Legislation if it is to go ahead.
The Liverpool proposal are the latest in an increasingly long list of City, City Region based tourism tax/ tourism levy proposals. Like those that have gone before it, it has been quickly condemned by BHA (British Hospitality Association) or UKHospitality as it has been known since the completion last week of its amalgamation with ALMR (Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers).
Based in Southport, part of the Liverpool City Region I have been aware of the report and its emerging recommendations but have been unable to share news of this development sooner, due in part to the obvious sensitive nature of anything to do with “tax” or additional charges. Although UKHospitality have immediately fallen back on the established national BHA stance which might be summarised as “never on our watch”, it is interesting to note that the Liverpool report has had to gained a significant degree of local hospitality industry support in order to progress, as indeed we believe have many of other proposed schemes in recent years.
I am speculating but perhaps this illustrates the divergence between the maintenance of core principles at a national level and the more pragmatic local position? That local position seems to me to be that in current financial and organisational circumstances, perhaps radical change is now justified to ensure that destination management, development and marketing can continue at the level required to ensure success in, what is after all, a highly competitive domestic, let alone global tourism, leisure and cultural market.
I do also personally ponder whether the interests of some of the larger accommodation chains, who are arguably far less dependent on individual destination management and marketing efforts for the success of their business model, may have helped drive the BHA’s position? It will be interesting to see whether UKHospitality will be prepared in time to reconsider their inherited stance in the light of growing local support for proposed new ways of funding local destination based activities.
I have had some minor concerns about whether pilot proposals based almost exclusively on City or City Regions will be readily adaptable to the equally pressing (some might reasonable argue greater) needs all other destinations types? In part the answer is that without someone leading the way no one else will ever get the opportunity to follow. Moreover, if you are to trial the approach, then Liverpool City Region’s varied offer that includes within it: traditional seaside resorts, smaller towns and rural and rural coastal areas as well as major City is about as good a diverse test bed as you are going to get within a City anywhere else in the UK. What we perhaps now need is a wider industry movement that says to the Westminster Government we don’t really care where but we do want you to test local levies and we do want them tested sooner rather than later.