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‘A great way to discourage tourists’ - Residents react to suggested tourist tax in Norwich

PUBLISHED: 11:55 25 July 2018 | UPDATED: 19:57 25 July 2018

Residents worry that tourism will suffer under suggested charge. PHOTO: Jonathan Howes

Residents worry that tourism will suffer under suggested charge. PHOTO: Jonathan Howes

A proposal to charge visitors to Norwich £1 per night has been branded as “ridiculous” and “a great way to discourage tourists”.

Green Party councillors pitched the idea on Tuesday of charging tourists to visit the fine city, the money from which would be invested in preserving the city’s history and running essential services.

But a city hall chief has said another tax would not help city businesses.

And residents have slammed the idea, with fears it would put people off visiting Norwich.

Green Party councillor David Raby told a meeting of the full city council on Tuesday: A small charge of, perhaps, £1 per person per night could raise funds to enhance the historical and cultural aspects of the city in addition to providing some essential local services in this time of continuing cuts.

“The city council needs to look for new ways to raise money and this small charge seems good value for visitors who get to enjoy everything Norwich has to offer.

“The levy would also help to level the playing field between established local hotels and B&Bs and online operators such as Airbnb.

“A charge paid by visitors staying in visitor accommodation would help to guarantee adequate standards, maintain a level playing field in the sector and safeguard the cultural and social offering of historic cities such as Norwich.”

But Mike Stonard, Norwich City Council’s cabinet member for growth, said: “We need to be mindful in Norwich that we already have a levy, which is raised through Norwich BID and contributes to animating the city.

“I am not sure another levy on top of this would be helpful to local businesses.”

He added: “Ultimately, I fear more taxes just absolve and distract the government from tackling proper central funding of public services.”

Stefan Gurney, executive director of the Norwich Business Improvement District, was also not convinced by the suggestion.

He said: “From our perspective, it doesn’t sound like a particularly rounded proposal at this point and we would certainly have concerns about the potential economic impact.”

A poll run by this newspaper found 490 out of 590 people (83pc) thought the proposal was a bad idea.

Some compared it to the development charge at Norwich Airport, where adults must pay a £10 levy when travelling from there.

David Herschell said: “It’s ridiculous, you should encourage tourism, not slap a tax on visitors to the city.”

While Tony Campbell said: “Great way to discourage tourists, it’s not as if Norwich is the major tourist trail and will easily frighten off the once in a blue moon cruise ships from docking in Yarmouth.”

But Susan Lowes added: “We are being taxed now in places in Europe when we arrive so why not here?”

Some cities, such as Barcelona, Berlin, Paris and Amsterdam already charge city tax to people staying in hotels, with money going to promote tourism or to government departments.

If the levy was approved locally, it would still have to be permitted by Westminster.

Bath considered a similar tax in January last year but the idea was not approved by the government.

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