“Welcome to Manchester – please pay £1 for the privilege of being here.”
From tomorrow (1 April), that is what awaits visitors staying in hotels in the city, as Manchester become the first location in the UK to levy a tourist tax.
Guests in city-centre hotels or apartments will be charged £1 per night, per room, as part of a new scheme that officials hope will raise £3m per year.
The money is being collected by an organisation called the Manchester Accommodation Business Improvement District (ABID). And it will be spent “to improve the visitor experience and support the growth of the visitor economy across the city over the next five years”.
It mirrors similar fees introduced in tourist destinations such as Amsterdam, Barcelona and Rome. The idea looks like catching on, with Edinburgh and locations in Wales following soon. But could these extras annoy tourists and persuade them to go elsewhere?
How will this charge be levied – and what exactly happens to the money?
It’s a “statutory charge” so, like VAT, you can’t avoid it. Guests will find it added to the final bill, though it may be inflated by adding VAT to make it £1.20. Specifically, that means a benefit for future visitors of “improving guest welcome and street cleanliness”. But the ABID organisation also says it will be used to fund marketing campaigns and for “securing large-scale events, conferences, and festivals in low-season months”.
In other words, tourists today will help pay to attract future visitors.
Will the extra charge put people off?
If a city-centre hotel room typically costs £50 or £100, then £1 (or £1.20) is a trifling one or two per cent. People are not going to think: “How outrageous – I’ll go to Liverpool or Leeds instead.” The proponents say it’s a neat and light-touch way to boost Manchester’s place on the international stage still further.
The tourism offering is constantly expanding – with the revamped Manchester Museum opening earlier this year, and a major new cultural space, Factory International, due to open in the heart of the city in June. And there are a couple of football clubs that seem to attract visitors.
But guests in the UK already pay 20 per cent in VAT, which is much higher than many other countries. And these fees have a habit of increasing fairly rapidly. An analogy in travel, I’d say, is…
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