Trustram Hunt became the director of the V&A last year

Should overseas visitors pay a hotel tax to support local culture?

Geraldine Kendall Adams, 12.09.2018
V&A director Tristam Hunt suggests such a tax could help maintain free entry
The Victoria and Albert Museum’s (V&A) director Tristram Hunt has suggested that cities in the UK should introduce a hotel tax to support local culture and keep museums and galleries free to enter.

Speaking at the Festival of Ideas in London, Hunt said he was “very much in favour” of levying a charge on overseas hotel visitors, which he said could then be used to help support local museums, according to a report in the Telegraph.

Hunt pointed out that other major cities charge both a tourist tax and admission charges to their museums and galleries.

“Why, when I go to New York or Florence or Rome do I pay a hotel tax to support culture in that city, and yet all the tourists who come specifically to London to enjoy culture don’t pay a hotel tax?” he said.

“So I think government should give local authorities in London, Edinburgh, Cambridge, Bristol, wherever, the right to levy a hotel tax.

“The challenge for us would be to say that needs to come to museums like ourselves: it’ll probably end up going somewhere else.”

Hunt said he had revised his views on free entry, which he called for scrapping in a newspaper column in 2011 when he was the Labour MP for Stoke-on-Trent Central.

He told the festival: “The reason I wrote that was the state of regional, particularly local authority, museums who were subject to council funding.

“We [the V&A] have had it bad, but local authority museums have been absolutely smashed over the last few years.

“But free entry is an important part of UK public policy now. It works for us economically because you don’t pay at our front door but you do go to our shop or our cafe or go to an exhibition. We’ll get money out of you somehow.”

Do you agree that tourists should pay a hotel tax to help support local culture? Vote in our poll and have your say.


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23.09.2018, 23:36
I have visited Barcelona as a holiday maker and each time have been happy to pay 'tourist tax' of around €10 per person for a week of sight-seeing and enjoyment of their culture. As tourists, we enjoy and enrich that region's culture and economy, but we must also be mindful of the impact our presence has on the infrastructure of that place, including maintenance and repair of public transport, toilets, and other facilities. As residents we pay local taxes to support our local infrastructure and accept this necessity. I think it would be very reasonable to introduce the system of a 'tourist tax' in the UK and that many visitors to the UK would be happy to contribute to a place they have chosen to visit!
22.09.2018, 22:13
From what I experienced in France, visitors from abroad pay a tax for each night's accommodation and the money goes to the local authority. It may be the case that the rate varies between regions, it was less than a euro per night so it was hardly a great inconvenience compared to pound sterling being worth 20% less than it did two years ago. The local authority can spend it on whatever it wants.
20.09.2018, 09:08
In Spain, citizens have their national ID card which permits free entrance to museums and art galleries. Tourists don't have one so they have to pay a fee. I don't have a problem with this. British citizens, however, are not keen on having a national registration card, and there are many small museums that depend on entrance fees. The idea suggested by Hunt isn't feasible without great change being made to the sector - funding from Government in particular. In Spain, for example, there are no guarantees that museums will stay open, and some do close simply due to lack of funding.
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20.09.2018, 04:43
How does one distinguish a tourist visitor as opposed to a business traveller? Visas? Purpose of stay? Do visitors at 5 star hotels pay more than a person staying in a 2 star or a B&B or even an Airbnb? Does one get taxed at time of visa application, entry or stay? And if they move around staying in different hotels? Simple me can't figure this out.. if at visa application..there are countries that citizens can come in to the UK for a few months without a visa, so one loses out on them.
A few countries charge foreigners a higher entry to museums and heritage sites. Locals get in for free or a nominal charge. Wouldn't that be better?
Just my thoughts..