Dan yr Ogof chief’s harsh warning: ‘Rural areas will bear brunt of tourism loss’

“I have never during 40 years managed to get my 20 cottages averaging 182 days a year...”

Friday 17th June 2022 4:00 pm
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A cave at Dan yr Ogof with an inset photo of Ashford Price
A cave at Dan yr Ogof with an inset photo of Ashford Price (The National Showcaves of Wale and Ashford Price )

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Thousands of people who are employed in the tourist industry could be facing ruin following the Welsh government’s decision to increase the number of days that holiday cottages must be let out to visitors, a leading tourism operator has warned.

Ashford Price, who runs Dan Yr Ogof National Showcaves, and its associated self-catering resort, has warned that ‘Draconian rules’, which mean that holiday homes will have to be let for 182 days a year before they become eligible for business tax instead of council tax , will see many businesses fail.

“From April 2023 the Welsh Government’s Utopian future for the still left in self-catering in Wales will be like working under rules reminiscent of a Stalinist regime where you are told the number of days your business ‘must’ be open for and the number of letting days your business ‘must’ reach,” said Mr Price, who has run his self-catering business for more than 40 years.

Hundreds of jobs could be at risk as holiday cottage rules change

Under current rules Welsh holiday homes have to be let for 70 days before they becomes eligible for business tax instead of council tax, however the Welsh government has recently confirmed that between April 2022 and April 2023, each property must secure a minimum of 182 days a year - a move many holiday cottage operators fear could ve the nail in their business coffins.

“This is an unobtainable figure for the majority of operators in Wales but if your business fails to meet any of these new government demands you will face an increase of up to 300 per cent in your rates bill,” said Mr Price who predicts that as many as 1,400 businesses could be forced to close due to the new regulations, resulting in many more people losing their jobs.

He warns that rural areas like the Brecon Beacons will also be the poorer as there will be fewer tourists spending money in their area during the tourist season with the resulting loss of ‘summer tourist money’ which helps the local shops, garages, and pubs survive the long quiet winters in many rural locations.

“A high number of these lovely self-catering properties will be put up for sale. However, these properties will not be available for most locals to buy as the asking price will be beyond their reach so those in government who are claiming that these new measures will lead to an increase in housing stock for local people are misleading the people of Wales.

“In many cases what will happen is that these properties will be bought by wealthy English ‘incomers’ who will not mind paying 300 per cent extra on rates for an exquisite piece of Welsh real estate that their families can then use as a ‘holiday home’,” said Mr Price

This is an unobtainable figure for the majority of operators in Wales

Ashford Price

He says that government advice to ‘try harder’ to increase letting days fails to understand the seasonal nature of Welsh tourism, which cannot compete on the ‘weather front’ with Spain and the Canaries.

“Many EU countries like Spain have a 10 per cent VAT rate, much lower heating and electricity costs, thus making their winter holidays cheaper than many operators in Wales can offer.

“Winter opening for many in Wales, especially in rural areas, is simply not a viable option as the demand is not there in the first place and anyway everything locally closes down.

I have run Brecon Beacons self-catering Resort for over 40 years and despite the complex having an indoor swimming pool, tennis court, crazy golf, ski slope, indoor games room etc, I have never during 40 years managed to get my 20 cottages averaging 182 days a year,” said Mr Price

“I have also tried, but failed, three times to open in the winter and this new letting requirement is simply impossible in our mountainous remote rural location. Our winter weather is to say the least ‘challenging’ - the SAS use this location to train in the winter!

“Add to this that we also have a cost of living crisis in Britain which we are told will get worse this winter which means that many people will not be able to afford a summer holiday in 2023 let alone a winter one and we have to ask where will these extra days of letting come from,” said Mr Price.

“To say that the future looks bleak for many genuine Welsh self-catering operators is an understatement, as there’s a very real possibility there will be no future for many of the 4,700 people currently employed within the Welsh self-catering sector from April 2023,” he added.

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