Over-tourism: What do residents and holidaymakers think of a tourist tax?

In part two of our investigation into shaping an inclusive solution to the problem of over-tourism, Hannah Penrose and Sam Shaw seek the views of York visitors and residents on a tourist tax 

 

We established in part one that over-tourism is causing challenges in destinations across the world, not least the friction generated between visitors and residents. We also examined the case for a tourist tax as a possible mechanism to address these issues. 

Meanwhile, hospitality leaders in our home city of York, while expressing concerns about the impact of such a tax, told us they were open to the idea – if tourism sector representatives were part of a collective approach to setting and spending the tax. 

But what about the other major stakeholders – visitors to York, and those who live in the city? Would they embrace or reject a tourist tax? The support of both would be crucial in its successful implementation. So we took to the city’s streets to get the views of both. 

 

The views of residents and tourists

The concern created by over-tourism was evident in our interviews with York residents. Typical comments included: 

Residents brought up a variety of concerns. These included overcrowding, the strain placed by tourism on local services, issues related to litter, and the prevalence of Airbnbs making it even more expensive to buy or rent a home in York. 

Meanwhile, the tourists we spoke to were overwhelmingly positive about the city and their tourism experience. They were also more positive about the cleanliness of York than the residents – but that may be because tourists tend to go to the most well-maintained parts of the city. 

Strikingly, there was unanimous support from those we interviewed across both groups for the principle of a tourist tax. Visitor comments included: 

And one resident said a pound a night didn’t go far enough:  

Critically, the implementation of a tourist tax would not put people off visiting York: 

While a tourism tax was welcomed by all in principle, residents did raise questions about how and where the money would be spent.  

Our research made it clear that transparency would be crucial if a tourist tax was to be successful. Locals said they would wish to be kept informed about the purpose and progress of the tax – and, crucially, be able to observe its tangible impact on York. 

 

A consensus – now what?

Our original purpose in embarking on this research project was simple. It was to gain insights that could help policymakers in popular visitor destinations make changes to boost sustainable tourism, which in turn supported residents and tourists to co-exist in greater harmony. 

Specifically, would a tourist tax help this to come about? 

We’ve now established that residents and tourists we spoke to are in favour of the tax. And – with some caveats – hospitality leaders in York might be ready to support the policy too. 

 

Research methods