By Aled ScourfieldBBC News25 May 2023
Updated 1 hour ago
Chief executive William McNamara, at one of the new platinum lodges, says the tourist tax could be a “turnoff” for visitors to Wales
The director of a major visitor attraction in Wales has claimed the proposed tourist tax could hurt holiday businesses.
William McNamara, of Bluestone National Park Resort, was speaking after announcing a £30 million investment package for the Pembrokeshire site.
He said he didn’t want visitors coming to Wales “disabled”.
The Welsh government said it could generate new revenue to improve local services and infrastructure.
Bluestone is developing 80 new platinum lodges, a heritage restaurant and an 11-hectare solar park.
It employs 800 people and spends £7 million annually on a range of suppliers across Wales.
Bluestone, near Narberth in Pembrokeshire, attracts 150,000 visitors annually
“What we don’t want to see is an exit into Wales, because there’s a tourist tax here, so it’s a very fine line and it’s going to be a good balance,” McNamara said.
Bluestone recently spent £3 million to convert the nearby disused Black Pool Mill into a two-storey restaurant.
Black Pool Mill was originally built in 1813 and has been converted into a restaurant
Sarah Davies, head of Black Pool Mill, said: “There’s an emphasis on buying locally. We try to keep that in season too. We’ve also sourced Welsh spirits and Welsh juices to bring it all the way through the experience. . “
Asked if the tourist tax could be harmful, Mr McNamara said: “If people are given the choice not to pay a tourist tax in England or in Wales, there must be very good reasons why they will pay it and why they would like it will pay by coming to Wales.
“That has to do with what the tourist tax is used for.
“I think the big debate should be about what the rate will be, how it will be collected and, very importantly, how it will be spent.”
The original iron gears and wheels can be seen in the Black Pool Mill restaurant
Bluestone attracts 150,000 visitors annually, and the company said it hopes the additional investment could generate an additional 50,000 visitors annually.
The completed Platinum Lodges will be approximately 20% more expensive than the existing versions.
Mr McNamara said he believed that despite the cost of living crisis, there was a market for them.
“They are well booked,” he said. “We had to keep developing the business and ambitiously offer our guests something that is 21st century.
“They are bigger than anything we have built and sustainably designed and operated. The cost of living crisis has had an impact on us. We are hopeful that it will not be long and we are long term players here at Bluestone.”
He also said a controversial decision made last year to restrict use of the Blue Lagoon facility to only Bluestone residents, upon reopening post-Covid, is “under review”.
The water ride was open to the general public before the pandemic.
Manchester introduced a tourist tax last year for people staying overnight in the city
The Welsh Government said the tax could “make a real difference by generating new revenue to develop and improve local services and infrastructure”.
“Our plans would allow local authorities to decide whether to introduce a levy based on the needs of their areas. The levy could make a real difference by generating new revenues to develop and improve local services and infrastructure” said a spokesperson.
“It is our intention to promote a sense of shared responsibility between residents and visitors, to protect and invest in local areas and to encourage a more sustainable approach to tourism.”
The owner of competitor Center Parcs recently put its UK and Irish operations up for sale for reportedly £4-5bn, but Mr McNamara insisted he was not interested in selling Bluestone.
“I like the industry. I like the people,” he said. “We have a family of 800 employees and they are very important to me.
Bluestone is currently not for sale, but at the same time everything is considered crazy money. The market leader is for sale for £4-5 billion.
“It will be very interesting to see what happens with that.”