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8 May 2024

The Small Things – Y Pethau Bychain

GUEST COLUMN:

Suzy Davies
Chair
Wales Tourism Alliance

Anyone who has visited St. David’s Cathedral will have seen the sign which captures the patron saint’s lesson: “Do the little things.  Gwnewch y pethau bychain”.

There is no doubt that Welsh tourism – our wellbeing industry – is still up against it. The costs of doing business have shot up while customers are thinking harder about how they spend their money.  Numbers are some way off those in the days before the Covid pandemic and whatever people are spending is going to fewer businesses as everything costs more.

The exception is in the self-catering sector where genuine businesses are discounting furiously to reach 182-day occupancy.  No other business is told to pay council tax, increasingly at a premium, if they fail to hit an arbitrary target.

This is territory where Welsh Government, in its Co-Operation Agreement with Plaid Cymru, is determined to proceed with some Big Things – Pethau Mawr.  The 182-day rule, though, is a thoroughly hopeless way of distinguishing the self-catering trade from the casual-let investor/second home.  It’s making local businesses unviable, offering no incentive to the casual lets to professionalise, and the properties coming into the market don’t meet the need for more affordable homes.

We hope the new Minister for Tourism and Hospitality (et al) will rise to the challenge in this and the slew of other policies damaging tourism without clear benefit.  The Big Things need to go and, in the meantime, some Small Things brought in.  Charities should be exempt from the rule.  As should properties which are part of the owner’s own home; where there are planning restrictions on occupancy; where owners become ill or have to take on caring responsibilities; or where premises can’t be let because of improvement or maintenance work.

The Smallest Thing Welsh Government could do, if they refuse to consider exemption, is to protect these businesses from the council tax premium until they respond fully to the impact all this is having.

One good Small Thing: Welsh Government has introduced a Future Proofing Fund for those keen to invest in their business.  There is no doubt that improving your offer gives you the edge in a competitive and depressed market, so please check to see if you are eligible.

https://businesswales.gov.wales/future-proofing-fund#:~:text=The%20fund%20will%20provide%20eligible,will%20be%20eligible%20for%20funding

A welcome move – but are retrospective payment and match funding really an incentive when you’re worrying about having to pay a council tax premium after a wet Spring has left you with lower bookings?

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