Critics of a proposed ‘tourist tax’ in Cambridge have dismissed the proposal as a ‘blunt instrument’.
Dr Sally Everett, from Anglia Ruskin University, has suggested introducing a two-tier pricing system to ease the pressure on the city’s infrastructure from heavy tourism.
The summer surge of tourists into the city centre has left some residents concerned about the impact on Cambridge’ character.
But last year the city’s councillors comprehensively dismissed a motion calling for the exploration of the concept.
In a recent interview with the News, Dr Everett explained that a discount pricing system for residents would be one way of creating sustainable tourism practices and protecting local resources.
Other countries in Europe have explored different tourism pricing systems, with many cities already charging a ‘hotel tax’.
Recent reports from Bruges in Belgium revealed that tourists were being charged an extra 10 per cent by chip-sellers.
In Venice, a two-tier system of charges favouring Venetians lead to a formal complaint being filed by a tourist with the European Commission.
While further afield in Bhutan, tourists must spend a minimum of $200 (£153) per day for the pleasure of visiting the country.
The UK is yet to feature a city that has introduced a ‘tourist tax’.
In Scotland, councils in Edinburgh, Fife, the Lothians and the borders sought to have the powers to introduce a levy on visitors within a £1billion devolution deal with the UK and Scottish governments. However the final deal, agreed in July, excluded any such powers.
Councillors in Bath have also been considering implementing a charge on visitors to the historic city.
The proposals were criticised by hospitality trade body The ALMR, which said it would have a “hugely detrimental effect on revenue streams for retailers and undermine the Bath economy”.
Cambridge City Council does not currently have the legal power to introduce a tourist tax, which would likely require government legisation.
A February 2016 motion, tabled by Cllr Oscar Gillespie, called on the council to pursue the concept.
It noted that a £1-2 levy on overnight stays could generate £1-2 million a year and suggested a full research report be produced. The levy was defeated by 28 votes to one.
Cllr Kevin Price, the council’s deputy leader, said: “Cambridge is a world renowned city, not just for its outstanding record of business success, but also because of its beautiful open spaces and historical buildings.
“Visitors to the city from abroad or from within the UK make a significant contribution to our economy, not just in the summer, but all through the year.
“While we do need a clear strategy to respond to increasing visitor numbers and ensure Cambridge continues to offer a high quality of life for its residents as well as its visitors, a tourism tax is a very blunt instrument that would require government legislation.
“Whenever it has been considered by the Council it has also been rejected.
He said the council worked alongside the local tourism agency and businesses increase awareness of tourism opportunities outside of the historic core of the city centre.”
Cllr John Hipkin, who recently criticised the negative impact of tourism in Cambridge, said something needed to be done to reduce visitor numbers.
He said: “Tourism can become too much of a good thing. In Cambridge many residents no longer feel at ease in the city centre, where they are too often accosted by punt touts, pushed aside by marching phalanxes, assailed by odours from outdoor food stalls and having to negotiate cafe tables sprawling into what was previously a public thoroughfare.
“Those in charge of tourism in the city and too many of my fellow councillors take the view that mass tourism benefits everyone and the more of it the better. I hold a different view.
“As I see it tourism at its present level is a blight on our city and we should be doing more to discourage day trippers and encourage long stay visitors.
“Until there is a change in the official outlook the problem will only get worse. Any measure designed to reduce tourist footfall in the city is worth considering.”
When the News approached the Visit Cambridge and Beyond tourism agency for comment on a tourist tax for the city, a spokeswoman said: “It’s an area that we have done no investigation into to date and for which there is currently no precedent in the UK.”