York could introduce a tourist tax – and crack down on Airbnb holiday lets

Tourists meet a Roman on Clifford's Tower in York. Photograph: VisitYork.org

York could introduce a tourist tax, crackdown on short term holiday lets and reduce taxes for hotels and visitor attractions under a new tourism strategy.

The Liberal Democrat national party say they will make changes to the way tourism is taxed – if they win a general election.

And York Lib Dem councillors have backed the proposals.


Councils do not currently have the powers to impose a tourism tax – but York Lib Dems promised to explore introducing a voluntary levy as part of their manifesto before the May local elections.

And Cllr Darryl Smalley says there could also be a crackdown on Airbnb-type holiday lets as well as tax breaks for hotels and visitor attractions.

Limit short term lets

Cllr Darryl Smalley
Cllr Smalley said York has a lot of short term holiday lets – resulting in areas with fewer long term neighbours to build community spirit.

“At the moment the council can do very little about safety standards on holiday lets, we don’t have the powers to [impose them],” he said.

“This policy would mean councils could limit the number of homes registered as short term lets and allows them to inspect properties and provide safety certificates.”

He added:

  • We are not completely against Airbnb – it’s great that residents could earn a bit of money from their home.

    We would like to have the power to limit the number of them and make sure that when people do stay in them they are safe.

Concerns about tourist tax

Cllr Smalley has met with York Hoteliers Association. “They have concerns that, with fairly tight margins, setting a new tourist tax would be unfair,” he said.

“What this motion does to address that concern is to reduce VAT on hotels and attractions. That means money that would otherwise disappear into the treasury’s coffers, goes to maintaining our streets instead, which is better for everyone in York.”

Cllr Smalley added:

  • The other concern is that some of the problems with high tourism levels (such as litter or anti-social behaviour) are not from people staying three or four days in hotels – it’s people hopping on the train for the day.

    And so we are looking at how they could contribute to maintaining the city.