CHANGES to tax rules for self-catering businesses in Wales could strangle the nation's tourism sector, bosses have warned.

In a joint letter signed by the Wales Tourism Alliance, The Professional Association of Self Caterers UK and UK Hospitality Cymru, the Welsh Government is warned tax changes could force as many as 30 per cent of self-catering businesses to close or sell up, our sister title the Powys County Times reports.

The proposals include raising the minimum time self-catering properties in Wales must be available to let from 140 days a year to 252, and raising the time the property is actually let from 70 days to 182.

Only then will business rates apply rather than council tax – 160 per cent more time than at present.

Ashford Price, whose family have run the National Showcaves for Wales in the Brecon Beacons since 1912, and has worked in Welsh tourism and self-catering operations for over 45 years, criticised the plans.

He said: “Young people do have a right to demand local homes, but ill-thought-out Welsh laws that force legitimate self-catering businesses to close will not provide the homes locals desperately need.

South Wales Argus: First Minister Mark Drakeford defended the plansFirst Minister Mark Drakeford defended the plans

“In many cases what will happen is that these properties will be bought by wealthy English ’incomers’ who will not mind paying an additional 300 per cent in rates to buy an exquisite piece of Welsh real estate that their families can then enjoy as a ‘holiday home’ for many years to come.”

Chairwoman of the Welsh Tourism Alliance, Suzy Davies, warned the plans do not distinguish between second homes being let out casually and professionally run holiday let, and have set out a list of proposed exemptions to allow for greater flexibility.

She said that it will be especially devastating to emerging tourism markets like Powys whilst not fixing issues in other counties.

“There will be hot spots in Gwynedd that will meet the 182 day threshold, no problem, they’re already doing it," she said.

“It will be places like Powys that have just started to develop as a tourism destination that will only just be hitting the 70 day threshold – so the places you’re trying to attract tourists to will be killed off by this and the places you’re trying to attract tourists away from will hit this threshold and the problem will still be the same.”

What the Welsh Government says

First minister Mark Drakeford defended the plans saying: “Tourism is vital to our economy but having too many holiday properties and second homes, which are empty for much of the year, does not make for healthy local communities and prices people out of the local housing market.

“There is no single, simple solution to these issues. Any action we take must be fair. We do not want to create any unintended consequences, which could destabilise the wider housing market or make it harder for people to rent or buy.”

South Wales Argus: Val HawkinsVal Hawkins

Val Hawkins, chief executive of Mid Wales Tourism Cymru, which represents more than 600 tourism and hospitality businesses across Powys, Ceredigion and Southern Snowdonia, said: “We are very concerned that legitimate, registered self-catering businesses in rural communities may find themselves incurring significant additional costs due to the change of threshold which will jeopardise them.

“These businesses are currently having to contend with unfair competition from unregistered, casual letting accommodation. It’s up to the Welsh Government and local authorities to look at ways of dealing with this problem to ensure that there is a level playing field.”