North East mayoral candidate Kim McGuinness has said a massive new era of North East culture, tourism and festivals could be funded by a £1-a-night levy on hotel guests.
Kim, standing to be Labour’s candidate for the new North East mayor post, said she wants to work with businesses to introduce the small additional charge which can then be used to showcase the region and turbo charge its cultural sector benefitting businesses and residents alike.
The North East tourism economy is the 4th biggest regional employer and saw some 90 million visits a year pre covid. But the region still receives the lowest number of domestic and international visitors and the smallest spend of any region in England – a figure Kim has vowed to change with the proceeds of the tourist levy.
Kim has made both supporting the arts and turning regional pride into an economic asset two key features of her bid to be Labour’s candidate for North East mayor.
The mayoral candidate has promised to invest in culture, events and visitor attractions if successful in May 2024, both as a driver of jobs in the region. Investment would also be made to give families access to culture, arts and sport through a new network of Sure Start style centres as a way of combating the effects of poverty in some of the North East’s hardest hit neighbourhoods.
Kim said: “The people in the North East are incredibly proud of all we have to offer, from arts to music to sport and more. Our cultural heritage defines us. Now it’s time to grow that. If we introduce a small tourist levy on hotel stays, like they have in other European regions, we can fund a series of major visitor events that will create jobs and put our region back on the national stage.
“We only have to look at the positive economic impact of Sam Fender and Pink concerts in in June which brought in more than £15m to the local economy. Out region can benefit from more of that impact”
The levy, often applied on a per night per room basis, is common across many European cities and used to fund local events or invest in infrastructure such as public transport networks. The levy is typically set at a level that is meaningful but won’t affect demand and applies to hotels, B&Bs and short term lets.
In the UK overnight levies are currently only able to be applied when agreed on a voluntary basis backed by city centre businesses. These businesses then set out how to invest the money raised.
Kim said she will first work with business and business improvement districts as mayor to introduce a voluntary scheme supported by the Combined Authority.
But for bigger success she believes the overnight levy will need to be put on a statutory basis overseen by the mayor and council leaders at a regional level. Such a move would need new Government legislation.
She vowed to lobby the next government for these powers as part of the next devolution deal for the North East.
Kim added: “I want the North East to be known as the home of real opportunity, where we tackle hardship and the unfair effects of austerity head-on. Arts and culture, sports and music, we’ve seen time and again these areas be a path to success and if we invest in culture and arts we can inspire a new generation.
“But not everyone gets the chance to succeed. We need to invest in young people and neighbourhood services in our hardest hit areas to make sure everyone has that opportunity.
“And we need to create more well-paid, secure local jobs now so parents have the financial security to support children who might go on to be the musicians or sports stars of tomorrow.
“My Plan for the North East brings together all these elements in a way that finally delivers the benefits of devolution to all our region.”