In his regular column for the `West Briton’ newspaper, branch secretary of the Celtic League, Mike Chappell, writes about his experience of tourism in Cornwall and wonders if a tourist tax may be in order.
Speaking to members of the branch at a meeting earlier this month Mr Chappell pointed out that Venice had recently introduced a tourist tax, in order to meet the extra cost of providing for such huge numbers of tourists in financially constrictive times.
“The Venetian authorities are describing the tax as a `cultural donation’, which will help finance tourism, maintain cultural heritage sites, the environment and public services. In these financially constrictive times, Cornwall could do with some extra funding in order to meet the demands that the huge number of tourists place on the Cornish economy, in order to protect our unique identity for future generations.
I think a `tourist tax’ would be a welcome alternative for Cornish people, who are fed up of paying such high levels of council tax and other charges, to supplement a tourist industry that I am sure could be managed more sustainably.”
The full text of Mr Chappell’s article can be found below.
“Recently, during one rainy but warm day, I found myself static in a very long queue of traffic.
“I wound down my car window and settled in for a long wait. As the wonderful air ambulance flew overhead, I looked forwards and behind me at the various cars, mostly new with enormous boxes on their roofs, at the big caravans and even bigger campers.
“A few cars down, I watched as rubbish was ejected from a car’s window then in my rear view mirror I glimpsed a man wearing a cagoule and shorts run from the car and urinate in the hedge and it then occurred to me. Summer is upon us again bringing with it the inevitable mass tourism we witness here on an annual basis.
“As I sat there, I was reminded of how many hold up tourism as some great `industry’ bringing with it huge benefits. It isn’t Cornwall’s largest `industry’ – if indeed it may be called as much – for it is exceeded by others, but it is given lavish treatment in the Duchy.
“Bringing in 23% of Cornwall’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP), it has seen down the years wages massively below the national average, sometimes as much as £5,000 less, itinerant workers who drift in for seasonal jobs then move on, offers less than stable work and in many places, has elevated house prices well beyond what is affordable to local people and in the case of second homes, made ghost towns of many of our villages. A recent report from one Parish Council informed that only 40% of its homes were occupied all year round with the remainder standing empty for the greater part of the year.
“I then remembered speaking with a member of an organisation which works with the homeless a few weeks ago and being informed that Cornwall has the second highest rate of homelessness in the whole of Great Britain, that it was one of the poorest areas of Europe with the lowest wages.
“It then occurred to me that perhaps tourism which we have tried and tested down these long years isn’t quite what it is cracked up to be, that there is a place for it but that the environmentally damaging mass immigration into Cornwall has to be paid for and that the rest of us who live here have to stand in ever lengthening queues at the hospital, in the shop and to pay amongst the highest rates anywhere. It is no replacement for real industry, an addition to it, perhaps, but not one which should be allowed to take the place of real work and careers.
“So perhaps, as I read recently, it might be time for a tourist tax as in places elsewhere in the world and for an extra levy to be placed on second homes not less Council Tax paid as at present – for the sake of us who live here all year round and sit in the traffic queue, thinking.”
For comment or clarification on this news item in the first instance contact:
Rhisiart Tal-e-bot, General Secretary, Celtic League:
Tel: 0044 (0)1209 319912
M: 0044 (0)7787318666
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21 September, 2011