Julie James MS Minister for Climate Change has made a written statement last week which brings little sign of a U-turn in the policy direction that has swung sharply in toward greater regulation and reform of the tourism industry. This statement may be packaged as housing reform, but it is also very much tax reform and tourism reform too. Sadly this is not in partnership with tourism practitioners, which is leading to consequences which undermine the effectiveness of what the Welsh Government (WG) says it hopes to achieve.
We are glad to see WG again acknowledges the difference between genuine tourism business and second homes. WTA does not speak for the latter, but was intrigued to see the census findings on the number of residents in Wales who themselves admit to owning "second homes". It will be interesting to see how the holiday-let licensing proposals will affect the choices of those owners. It reinforces the point, long-made by WTA, that registration of genuine holiday-let businesses should have been introduced, to help distinguish between genuine businesses and casually let second homes, before any of the other mishandled, mistimed and mistargeted reforms.
The arbitrary 182 day occupancy rule continues to cause problems for genuine businesses as WG shows no interest in reasons why owners cannot reach the threshold, which includes the effect of cost of living rises on customer choice as well as running any tourism and hospitality businesses at time of low demand. Forward bookings are generally down across all sectors with bookings more last minute, so planning, investing and employing is at present very uncertain.
We would like to see the Welsh Government carry out some research that proves their claims, especially in establishing which genuine holiday lets could be used as permanent dwellings. They also seem unwilling to provide genuine businesses with support to meet existing threshold during 2020/21 when they closed or were denied business as a direct result of lockdown rules and guidance.
There is in our opinion a reality gap between aspiration and effect of the Welsh Government at this time as these reforms damage communities whose residents have tourism and little else to sustain them. What is upsetting to hear is that local, genuine businesses - sometimes owned by local Welsh-speaking families who are part of their communities - are also thinking of calling it a day. Precisely because of WG/Plaid reform which is being rushed without reason or acceptance of the actual consequences.
We await the Minister’s report on the recent consultation on the exemptions to the new Premium Council Tax rate.
We hope that the news will be more positive and give us the exemptions we have reasonably asked for.