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Last Updated: Friday, 10 March 2006, 15:06 GMT
Dismay over 'tourist tax' plans
Bed and breakfasts
The tax could be in the form of a levy on overnight accommodation
There has been an angry reaction in the South West to an independent report which has suggested the possible introduction of a tourism tax.

Malcolm Bell, the chief executive of South West Tourism, has described the proposal as "barking mad".

Many businesses said such a tax would be costly to administer and would stop people visiting the area on holiday.

The Lyons Inquiry report's author said it was one of many options being looked at for local government funding.

Failed attempt

In a statement, Sir Michael Lyons said: "Taxes on tourist activity have been suggested to the inquiry as worthy of investigation... and we are looking at those ideas alongside a range of other proposals."

The tax could be in the form of a local levy on overnight accommodation, which would cover hotels, holiday lets and bed and breakfasts.

Malcolm Bell, South West Tourism's chief executive, said the idea of a tourist tax was "barking mad" and had already been tried in Europe and had failed.

"This was tried in the Balearic Islands and after about two years they dropped it," he told BBC News.

"I think we should learn from others who've gone down this route and found all the problems."

Mr Bell said a tourist tax could deter visitors from coming to the region.

"You could end up with an increase in the number of people leaving the country to fly abroad, polluting the sky and not paying any tax."

Local investment

The chairman of Newquay Tourist Information Centre in Cornwall has also criticised the suggestion of a tourism tax.

Paul Harknett, who used to be a local hotelier, said it was human nature for people to oppose the introduction of any new taxes.

He also believes there would be a good deal of scepticism over how the tax would be spent.

Mr Harknett said: "It's a bit like road tax - how much of a tourist tax would actually be invested in local tourism?

"This bed tax concept was floating about three or four years ago and in my view I think common sense prevailed because I think it will cost the industry more than it's going to raise."

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