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City councillors welcome Cambridge £2 visitor levy plan to raise up to £2.6m a year





Cambridge city councillors have welcomed the idea of a visitor levy for those staying overnight in the city.

And it has been confirmed that Cambridge BID, which is behind the plans, is in discussion with University of Cambridge colleges about how visitors staying in their accommodation could be included.

Tourists in Cambridge city centre. Picture: Keith Heppell
Tourists in Cambridge city centre. Picture: Keith Heppell

A proposed visitor levy of around £2 a night is proposed, which would be charge would be paid by hotel guests in Cambridge and South Cambridgeshire, as the Cambridge Independent exclusively revealed in February. The so-called ‘tourist tax’ would create a funding pot for investment in the city of up to £2.6million a year.

The visitor levy is proposed to cover people staying overnight in hotels with 10 rooms or more.

At a meeting of the city council’s strategy and resources scrutiny committee on Monday (25 March) councillors shared their support of the plans.

Cllr Karen Young (Lib Dem, Queen Edith’s) thought it sounded like a “very good thing to do”, but questioned why the charge would not cover Airbnbs and other forms of short-stay visitor accommodation in the city.

It was explained that the current system for a visitor levy was based on business rates. Councillors were told there was potential for this to change in five years when a new decision would have to be taken on continuing the levy.

Cllr Cameron Holloway (Lab, Newnham) said he thought it was a “great initiative” and said it could be “really positive for the city”.

He also highlighted a number of suggestions for where the money raised by the charge could be spent, including finding a way to encourage coaches with tourists to use the park and ride sites, and homelessness prevention work.

Cllr Holloway also said the city council was facing potential “big cuts” in the coming years, and said he would like to see some of the money being used towards helping the authority to prevent savings it would “otherwise have to make”.

Cllr Tim Bick (Lib Dem, Market) also asked if the money could be used to fund capital projects if it was decided a new facility could be needed.

He added that he hoped the visitor levy was seen as a “positive development” for the city, and that he hoped it could meet both the interests of the tourism sector and the broader interests of people living and working in Cambridge.

The Cambridge BID team, from left Helen Hames, Chris Douglas, Natalie Cargill, Maria Manion, Becky Burrell, and Glen Sharp, which is putting forward the proposals for a visitor levy in the region Picture: Keith Heppell
The Cambridge BID team, from left Helen Hames, Chris Douglas, Natalie Cargill, Maria Manion, Becky Burrell, and Glen Sharp, which is putting forward the proposals for a visitor levy in the region Picture: Keith Heppell

Maria Manion, chief executive of Cambridge BID, said capital investments could be considered, highlighting that new wayfinding infrastructure was something already being looked at.

She added that the money raised from the levy was likely to be used up quickly, but said it could also offer the opportunity to enable other sources of funding to be found as well.

Cllr Alice Gilderdale (Lab, East Chesterton), executive councillor for community wealth building and community safety, said while the visitor levy could offer an “exciting new pot of funding” she said it would not be a “silver bullet”.

Under the current plan, the charge would be £2 a night for the first two years and £3 a night for the following three years. If agreed, the charge is proposed to be introduced from January 2025.

A report said it was estimated the charge could bring in £1.5m to £2.6m a year, based on an average occupancy of between 66 per cent and 76 per cent.

It would also not apply to places where visitor accommodation is a secondary part of the business, for example, pubs that offer guest rooms.

The city council report said it could not be mandated for the visitor levy to cover the university colleges when its rooms are let out on a commercial basis at certain times of the year.

However, the report said a voluntary agreement is being explored with the colleges.

The committee councillors voted unanimously to endorse moving forward with work to introduce the new visitor levy. However, the charge can only be introduced if it is supported by more than half of the hotel owners who would be covered by the charge.

A ballot is due in the summer.



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