Tourism tax suggestion dismissed by Thanet council

Busy Margate beach Photo Frank Leppard

By Local Democracy Reporter Daniel Esson

Additional reporting by Gabriel Morris, Local Democracy Reporter

A suggestion for a “tourist tax” will not be taken up by Thanet council – because it does not have the power to do so.

The idea of “levying a modest tourism tax on overnight stays” was put to Thanet District Council’s (TDC) cabinet last night (April 25) as part of a report by the authority’s tourism working group, which was set up last summer.

The aim was to address the impact of visitors on local communities, with the biggest issues being the use of facilities such as public toilets and beaches and the increase in litter and traffic.

The report said: “We want a booming visitor economy but we are acutely aware of the additional costs visitors bring, so we need to make every effort to secure income for the council to set against those costs.”

Other ideas included “ensuring holiday lets contribute to funding the costs they impose and taking a robust approach with Southern Water over beach pollution and exploring opportunities to provide paid-for facilities like beach huts with facilities for overnight stays”.

The group also proposed additional council taxes on second homes and long-term empty properties – which the council has agreed to introduce from April 2025 and which is expected to raise £540,800 for the authority.

The levy suggestion split opinion, some called it a “ridiculous idea” while others praised the chance to “put some money back into the local economy”.

Jane Bishop, owner of the Walpole Bay Hotel, told the Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS): “In the olden days people came for long stays, we didn’t have the short breaks that we do today, and some people came for six weeks in the summer, so it’s changed.

“We pay business rates, we have to pay for our own waste clearance, our own recycling, as far as Walpole’s concerned we’ve been the public loo in Walpole Bay since 2007, so we feel that we’ve done our bit.

“We’d be the tax collectors for the council when we’re already paying a huge contribution towards the welfare of the town.”

Ms Bishop admitted some visitors generate a cost. She said: “[It’s] mainly the people who come on day trips with Margate because they come down and they bring their music and their food and their booze, and they use our beaches and our facilities all day long, get on their trains and coaches and cars and leave us with all the mess.”

“We want people to come here and we don’t want them to pay through the nose,” she added.

On the streets of Margate, visitors were split.

“I think it is a really good idea,” said Mia, 22, visiting from Bristol.

“I think it’s a good thing, put some money back into the local economy.”

Melinda Richards, 47 and visiting from Australia, added: “I think it’s a ridiculous idea, an added cost on to hotel bills is just stupid. The area does need more investment but not in that tourist tax way, absolutely no way.”

“I think there’s positives and negatives but generally if it helps the local community I think a tourism tax would be good,” said Navaneethan Natarajan, 23, from Birmingham. He added: “Hopefully nothing too big because that would detract people from coming here.”

At  last night’s TDC cabinet meeting, however, council leader Cllr Rick Everitt (Lab) said: “This council has no powers to institute a tourist tax and the government said last year that it doesn’t intend to give this council powers to institute a tourist tax.”

He added: “Thanet council will not be introducing a tourist tax.”

Some local authorities have found ways to charge visitors extra. In Manchester, there is a tourist tax of an additional £1 on the cost of any overnight stay through the council’s Business Improvement District (BID).

Liverpool also has one but the cost varies depending on the business providing the accommodation.

“If we were ever to go down that road clearly we would consult businesses and get their opinion,” Cllr Everitt said.

He added that the issue was not overnight visitors who paid to stay in the area but day trippers who often did not contribute to the local economy and sometimes caused issues with litter and public order.

Thanet council spends some £120k per year cleaning beaches. This includes year-round cleaning but is heavily weighted to peak holiday periods.

Opposition Conservative Cllr Phil Fellows attended the meeting and stressed: “No one’s talking about setting up toll booths on the Thanet Way to charge people.”

He added that the aim had been for a small fee for those staying overnight in Air BNBs which did not necessarily contribute through council and business taxes due to relief schemes.

The report into tourism also proposed other measures such as new signage, CCTV, more bins at the district’s beaches and exploring opportunities to provide paid-for facilities via overnight campervan parking and beach huts with facilities for overnight stays.


  1. Absolutely correct decision. Thanet needs to encourage MORE overnight stays, not less (it’s Margate, not Venice!).

  2. Not a bad idea.It might fund the council to do some serious litter picking and provide more bins.I live off the seafront and my street is littered constantly by tourists.Ever had a full nappy thrown in your garden,beer cans left on your wall,tapes,cigarette boxes cola cans,Morellis tissues,ice cream containers,McDonalds packaging etc tossed in your road.Sometimes on a busy weekend it’s a full time job.The bins are left overfilled and rubbish blows everywhere but TDC haven’t swept or litter picked the back streets in all the time I have lived here.Total neglect so yes please charge tourists because between them and TDC the place would look like a dump, if it were not for the decent people of Yhanet who arrange clear ups.

  3. It’s a misunderstanding of what could be done within the UK Legal framework (to get around it). It is possible for the District to Set Up a Business Improvement District. The tourism businesses pass on the cost to the visitor and can identify it as such. This is what Great Yarmouth are doing..”Business Improvement Districts (BIDs) are an effective way in which businesses can take control and improve their trading environment. A levy based on the business rate is paid for by businesses within the determined geographical area usually between 1% or 2% of their business rates per annum

    BIDs are funded and controlled directly by the businesses who pay for them. As a business, you can influence which projects the BID fund is spent on.
    The Greater Yarmouth Tourism & Business Improvement Area will raise up to £500,000 revenue per year to spend on additional services that the businesses determine will improve their working environment and increase footfall.
    The levy cannot be spent on statutory services already provided by the local authority and can only either supplement those services or provide extra services such as additional events, marketing or facilities.
    BIDs can run for a maximum of five years and during this time they must be able to show that they are benefitting the businesses which fund it. If after the first five year term businesses agree that the BID has been successful they are able to vote the BID in for a further 5 year term.
    What can BIDs deliver?
    It’s up to you as a business to help shape what the BID in the Greater Yarmouth Tourism & Business Improvement Area might deliver. BIDs can deliver any projects or services that are agreed by the businesses in the BID area. These projects must go over and above anything that is already provided through business rates and by the local authority. Further details of what the GYTABIA has delivered in the past is outlined on this website.

    Why do businesses support BIDs?
    BIDs have the ability to increase footfall to an area, reduce premiums and improve services. As they can run for up to five years they also give businesses the opportunity to plan ahead. BIDs put the control into the hands of the businesses themselves.” Manchester and Liverpool also do it. Check out this page. The money can’t be spent on things that the council has a statutory duty to do – but can be spent on other things they could do to improve the area. Whenever we go abroad we expect to pay local tourist tax. We’re so behind the curve.

    • Incorrect most business do not support BID’s it actually closes most small businesses down you only have to look at Canterbury and most small run businesses ended up going bust and most new ones only last a few months

      • Incorrect. I’m quoting directly from Great Yarmouth’s website, where they do support it. Also Liverpool and Manchester.

  4. By all means introduce it everywhere, but if only Thanet did it then it would be disadvantaged compared to Sandwich, Deal, Whitstable, Faversham and other picturesque Kent towns.

    • Do you really think that people who want to come to Margate, Broadstairs, Ramsgate from abroad would be put of coming and change their plans because of a tourist tax of a couple of quid a day? I don’t think so. It’s never even figured in our thought process for choosing a holiday. If a couple of quid makes that much difference they won’t be coming on holiday anyway.
      And TDC is right that to make a change across the board would require primary legislation. And Scotland is already pushing this through, Wales will follow and will reap the benefits. We could do something local rather than waiting for our inept and self-serving Government to do it.

      • What percentage of people who stay overnight in Thanet are from outside the UK? I don’t know the answer, but I suspect it’s very small. Of course, if we had a ferry and /or plane service it would be a very different story…

  5. ‘In the olden days people came for long stays’,define ‘olden days’.I don’t think the 1950’s counts as ancient history just yet.Perhaps if historians are looking back in 3024, it might, assuming we have not obliterated civilisation completely by then.
    Why are TDC discussing this, unless they intend to send a report to DLUC, where it will be tossed into the waste paper basket?
    Pink person, overseas tourists tend to visit places like Canterbury, Dover Castle. the Tower of London etc, but a tourist tax can be applied within our borders and not just regarding overseas tourists.
    Better still,register all air Bnbs and suggest that powers be devolved to local councils to apply an ad valorem duty on air Bnb lets. Why in god’s name has TDC not doubled council tax on second homes, as they already have the power to do that.
    I do understand, the frustration, when day trippers, clog the roads and leave an unholy mess afterwards. This is something where local businesses can help, instead of (a) disposing of their trade waste in litter bins,(b) moaning about TDC’s service when many of them don’t pay business rates or when they do it goes to HMG, and (c) ensuring their take aways sponsor bins to receive all the waste they generate.

    • Short holiday lets are usually run on a basis to ensure they qualify for business rates and as such wouldn’t fall into the realms of council tax. However in the budget it was announced there would be a change to holiday let taxation from april 2025, so it remains to be seen what happens.
      But even then how do you deal with the many such properties that are by one in a couple as their principle primary residence, a la labours deputy leader.
      Just removing the tax advantages that favour holiday lets over full time residential lets would move a significant portion of the s3ctor to either sell or revert back to residential. Give it a couple of years to determine what happens then fine tune via legislation if needed.

  6. Bit odd having an article on what won’t be done, but mentions the additional taxes on shortterm lets , gives an amount expected to be raised but no details on what the extra council tax etc will be.

  7. We always have to pay for each night overseas. It’s given. Think it should be put on to air bnbs as well as hotels. Let’s face it, people are paying £200+ to stay in air bnbs another £10 won’t make any difference. But only if it can be ring fenced and used for improving tourist attractions such as public loos and cleaning beaches etc

  8. Didn’t bother reading the other comments .. far toooooo long ! Yawn … just tax them all .. squeeze every penny out of them..

  9. Agree about the litter.The fireworks display in Broadstairs was appalling for litter.A 20 minute display attracted hundreds of people and the area looked like the litter I’ve seen at a Rock Festival.Cars parked across drives and on yellow lines.Even blocking off my road.I really want to support these things but no planning goes into it.The litter from the food festival was industrial.Nobody cares about the locals who pay council tax.Labour or Conservative councils know what they are doing.

  10. Better idea, charge the people who live in Cliftonville a tax before they leave it to infest the rest of Thanet, including councilor Lewis.

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