A tourism chief has likened new anti-holiday let regulations to those of a Stalinist dictatorship.
Ashford Price, secretary of the Welsh Association of Visitor Attractions, believes around 1,400 businesses are now at risk as a result of the Welsh Government’s new policies over council tax and holiday homes.
Currently, properties available to let for a minimum of 140 days in any 12-month period, and actually let for at least 70 days, pay business rates rather than council tax. But from April 2023, properties must be available to let for at least 252 days and actually let for at least 182 days in any 12-month period to qualify.
If an owner cannot meet these thresholds, then they will be required to revert to paying council tax.
However, holiday let owners argue that the 182-day rule is unfair and unrealistic for most owners due to seasonality – many areas get few if any bookings in the autumn and winter periods
The Welsh Government is also giving local authorities power to increase council tax to 300 per cent on properties that fail to reach what councils regard as minimum occupancy.
Price tells local media in Wales: “From April 2023 the Welsh Governments ‘utopian’ future for those still left in self-catering in Wales will be like working under rules reminiscent of a ‘Stalinist Regime’ where you are told the number of days your business ‘must’ be open for (252 days.), the number of letting days your business ‘must’ reach (182 days) – which is an unobtainable figure for the majority of operators in Wales, and finally the ‘punishment’ if your business fails to meet any of these new government demands is an increase of up to 300 per cent in your rates bill.
“A leading tourism expert anticipates that around 1,400 business will be forced to close owing to these new rules, and many thousands of Welsh people will be made redundant. Rural areas will also be the poorer as when genuine self-catering operators cease to operate there will be fewer tourists spending money in their area during the tourist season. This ‘summer tourist money’ helps the local shops, garages, and pubs survive the long quiet winters in many rural locations.
“A high number of these lovely self-catering properties will be put up for sale. However, these properties will not be available for most locals to buy as the asking price will be beyond their reach.
“Hence, those in government who are claiming that these new draconian measures being imposed on genuine Welsh self-catering operators will lead to an increase in housing stock for local people are misleading the people of Wales. In many cases what will happen is that these properties will be bought by wealthy English ‘incomers’ who will not mind paying 300% extra on rates for an exquisite piece of Welsh real estate that their families can then use as a ‘holiday home’.
“This is just one example of the unintended consequences that the Welsh Government do not seem to comprehend within their anti-tourism agenda.”
Price continues: “Winter opening for many in Wales, especially in rural areas, is simply not a viable option as the demand is not there in the first place and anyway everything locally closes down. Currently we also have a cost of living crisis in Britain which we are told will get worse this winter.
“This means that many people will not be able to afford a summer holiday in 2023 let alone a winter one.
“To say that the future looks bleak for many genuine Welsh self-catering operators is an understatement, as there will be no future for many of the 4,700 people currently employed within the Welsh self-catering sector from April 2023.”
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