Visitors would pay up to five percent extra on their hotel bills.
With London as one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world, city residents are used to coming up with innovative ways to adapt and cater to visitors—there's now an app to help you scavenger hunt in museums, and a tour bus specially catered for canine travelers. However, the latest proposed addition to the U.K. capital is little less playful and a tad more costly, as the city hopes to turn high visitor numbers into profit by adding a small tax to hotel bills, which could then be used to improve the environment and infrastructure.
While the city has no plan to curb visitor numbers, London mayor Sadiq Khan said in a press conference last week that visitors could eventually see five percent of the total room rate added to their hotel bills. According to a report by the Greater London Assembly (GLA), the tax, which is similar to ones that exist in Berlin and Paris, could generate £240 million (USD $300 million) for the city each year. In turn, that profit could benefit the city in all manner of ways—from making the city cleaner and better maintained to free entry for cultural attractions (notably, the majority of London’s major museums like the Tate, Victoria & Albert Museum, and the Natural History Museum already offer free entry for permanent exhibits). Speaking to the Independent, Khan said that the tax is intended to ensure that “tourists who come to London contribute to our city.” Adding, “If you look around the world, major cities have a levy for tourists of one or two per cent.” The decision comes as part of wider proposals laid out by the the London Finance Commission, which would help give London more control over its economy in the wake of the country’s decision to leave the European Union. The tax would be the first of its kind in London.
The tourist tax is still far from becoming a reality—it would require new legislation to be passed in Parliament—but the idea has already been met with a good dose of criticism. The CEO of the British Hospitality Association, Ufi Ibrahim, described the tax as an “absolute folly,” according to Business Insider, expressing concerns that Airbnb would gain greater advantages over hotels. London has 2,100 hotels that would potentially be affected, and though it's difficult to enforce a similar tax on home-sharing services, London could follow Iceland’s lead by proposing a cap on the number of Airbnb rentals in the country.
How to both control and monetize high numbers of tourists has become a familiar dilemma for many cities. For some places like Dubrovnik, their decision to limit visitors can be owed to concerns over foot traffic damaging ancient sites, while in Venice, the city's 55,000 residents have found themselves dwarfed by an annual 22 million visitors. Barcelona, which already collects a tourist tax via cruises, hotels, or private rental homes, has been mulling an additional day-trip tax, which would charge visitors to the city, even if they don’t stay the night; and the city of Bath, England announced in January that it may also impose an extra tax on hotel bills. While another cost to keep track of when budgeting your vacation may not sound appealing, considering the wide array of cheap flights to London these days, a few extra dollars may end up being a small price to pay to sample that Banksy-inspired afternoon tea at the Rosewood.
This article has been republished from www.cntraveler.com