Britain’s great Staycation boom is over, tourism chiefs say as numbers drop below pre-Covid levels
The Great British Staycation boom is over due to the return of overseas holidays and the crippling cost of living crisis, as visitor numbers drop below pre-Covid levels, tourism chiefs have warned.
The Welsh Visitor Attractions Association (WAVA), which represents more than 80 tourism businesses, said there had been a “remarkable lull” in visitors from across the sector.
Almost half of its members saw fewer tourists during the holiday period than in the year before the 2019 pandemic.
They said rising running costs, including food and energy prices, were making things especially difficult for businesses and they now fear for their future.
The decline comes as hoteliers, small business and tourism bosses warned that any new tax on foreign tourists coming to Wales would “decimate” the holiday industry.
Visitors to Wales may be forced to pay a tourist levy to stay in the country in the future, if a planned consultation to be launched by the Labour-backed Welsh government this autumn passes.
Industry leaders have warned the move could irreparably damage the country’s tourism sector, with some saying a new charge could be seen as having an ‘anti-British’ agenda.
The crude 6-foot-long banner, written in black paint on a white board, was held up by three people in July 2020 above the A30 in Bodmin, one of the main roads into Cornwall.
Pictured: Holidaymakers flock to Fistral Beach in Cornwall after lockdown restrictions were eased in August 2020
Bournemouth beach was busy throughout the afternoon as sunseekers lined up on the golden sands along the Dorset coastline.
The Wales Tourist Tax: What could it mean for visitors to Wales?
How could the tax work?
No draft legislative proposals have been published so far, so it is not yet clear how the tax might work. There are concerns that the tax will affect people with second homes in Wales and increase taxation of holiday rentals.
Locals are also concerned about being charged for holidays in their own country.
What is clear is that local authorities will be able to decide whether or not to implement a charge for visitors
How much could visitors be charged?
It is not yet clear how much visitors may be charged, but if it is similar to the proposed tourist tax in Edinburgh, they could be charged up to £2 per night per room.
When could it be implemented?
The charge could be implemented after the consultation process, which will begin in the fall.
What happens next?
A consultation on the proposals will be launched in the fall of 2022. It will provide a variety of viewpoints for consideration.
A WAVA spokesperson said: ‘Many members find it difficult to pass on these extra costs knowing that families are struggling with cost of living issues. They want to make sure family days off remain affordable.
‘The general picture indicated by some attractions is that the weekly influx has decreased. Although the weekends are maintained, these numbers do not cover the lower number of visitors seen during the weekdays.
With the sector forecasting major turmoil, the mood has turned to gloom, with almost a fifth of companies “seriously considering” projects outside Wales, the group said.
Vince Hughes, who is the group’s chairman in North Wales and also Snowdon Mountain Railway’s business manager, said there was a particular drop in tourists looking for week-long trips.
He said: ‘There are not that many people around. We’ve definitely seen an impact on walk-ins: visitors seem to be more cautious as the cost of living rises.
“Shorter breaks, especially holiday weekends, are still popular, but mid-week lows are now more extreme.”
Almost half of the group members said they had seen fewer visitors at Easter 2022 than the same period in 2019, despite the warm weather.
Hughes said the Welsh government’s proposals to change the dates of school holidays and shorten the summer break would also hit businesses.
He said: “If two weeks were cut from the summer and moved to Christmas, we would not be able to recover lost revenue because we are a seasonal business,” he said. ‘In effect, we would lose two weeks of the high season.’
Another concern is a Welsh government plan to adjust the dates of school terms by shortening the summer holidays following a promise in the Welsh Labor manifesto that became part of the Labour-Plaid Cymru agreement in Senedd.
It means up to three weeks could be cut from the annual six-week break, the peak hour for tourism.
As well as distorting the country’s tourism market, potentially creating separate Welsh and English peak seasons, it could put some businesses seriously out of pocket.
Pictured: Holiday traffic in Exeter as thousands flock to Devon and Cornwall
Tourists sightseeing on a Snowdon Mountain Railway train, Mount Snowdon, Wales
Mr. Hughes added: “If two weeks were cut from the summer and moved to Christmas, we would not be able to recover lost revenue because we are a seasonal business,” he said. ‘In effect, we would lose two weeks of the high season.’
Meanwhile, it was announced earlier this month that tourists and second-home owners visiting a Cornish seaside resort will have to pay to use public toilets, while the facilities will remain free for locals.
St Ives Council has announced part of its policy to drastically reduce the cost of living for its residents by imposing charges on those who enter.
The eight public toilets in West Cornish town have traditionally been free to use for all, but now the local authority wants to get some money back without negatively impacting locals.
Officials admitted that toilet maintenance “costs a small fortune” each year, with rising bills for water, cleaning and maintenance.