The gap between tax revenue and public spending in Wales is currently running at around £13.7bn, which is 19.4% of GDP, compared with a deficit of 2% of GDP for the UK as a whole. Our economy needs supportive measures now. In terms of timing - post pandemic, staffing, global energy costs, cost of living crisis, we need time to recover, not face further burdens from the Welsh Government and Plaid in relation to increasing taxation and unknown regulation on top of UK tax and regulation. Wales, along with the rest of the UK, is the second most highly taxed tourism industry in the world, and while most of the levers are not in the hands of Welsh Government, we ask that Welsh Government does not make the situation worse; in terms of fairness and competitiveness.
Instead, the current slew of proposals and the resulting taxation and regulation pushes more burden onto the same beleaguered businesses and individuals who are now becoming focused on retracting investment. Our industry’s foundation is built on self-employment and seasonal jobs. The current proposals are threatening the very survival of many of those who bear the weight of the industry. For many hard-working families a small tourism business is the third vital source of income that makes rural living in Wales viable alongside part time often low paid work. There is a real danger from what appear to be un-modelled Plaid policies coupled to tick box consultations that lack weighting and engagement whilst ‘being told’, rather than ‘being listened’ too.
Without thorough economic impact assessment on each Plaid proposed change to legislature, we are likely to see substantive negative economic impact via de-investment; the closure of micro businesses and the loss of self and part time employment across Wales.
The WTA has been looking forward to building an increasingly mature and engaged relationship with Welsh Government post Covid. Our locally-embedded small business membership is ideally placed to collaborate on a community-up, regenerative tourism industry which can be proud of the highest quality and warmest welcome at all price points. Instead, our energy and resources are being sucked up by endless consultations rather than helping businesses find their way through these difficult times. The hard-line policy positions arising from the Co-operation Agreement have created distrust of Welsh Government, completely undermining the more positive relationships built during the Covid Pandemic.
This is not where we want to be in our own relationship. While the WTA does not receive government support to be a critical friend, unlike our sister Alliances in Scotland and England, we absolutely believe a critical friend is what Welsh Government needs in this space. It is our role to convey sentiment, informed opinion and evidence of members from all sectors of the industry and all corners of Wales: We request that the Welsh Government:
We are not looking for handouts, but we are looking for the ability to create those experiential holidays for our visitors. Welcoming destinations with an open offer to come and enjoy Wales responsibly. We believe these measures could even threaten the very survival of our true icon – the unique Welsh welcome that underpins all tourism promotion produced over the last 26 years and more. The concern now is that we will start to lose those that make Wales a special place to visit, not just from hospitality and accommodation, already increasingly controlled by on-line travel agencies, but also community players. This will only leave global companies with bland homogeneity, a lack of community engagement and prohibitive UK and Wales tax arrangements.
So come on Welsh Government, let us do our jobs, we expect better.