A Queenstown accommodation operator is mobilising opposition to mayor Jim Boult’s campaign for a bed tax.
Villa del Lago owner Nik Kiddle fears the mayor’s idea of taxing visitors $10 per bed per night to fund infrastructure will drive visitors away from commercial accommodation – and maybe away from Queenstown altogether.
On Monday’s TV/radio The AM Show, broadcast from Queenstown, Boult suggested $10 a night – based on about 4.5 million commercial accom-modation visitor nights – would raise about $45 million a year.
“If $10 puts you off coming here, then maybe we don’t want that particular tourist,” he said.
Kiddle, however, says a family of six would be forced to pay an extra $60 a night, or an extra $420 for a week’s holiday.
Instead, he believes the mayor should push central government to rebate 10 to 15 per cent of the GST generated each year by international visitors to Queenstown – about $332.4m at last count.
Asked to comment, Boult declined.
He cited the “libellous” content of a covering letter Kiddle and his wife Charlotte Mill had sent to other accommodation operators to try to rally their support.
On the same night, Boult also threatened defamation action against the couple, Kiddle says.
In his ‘open letter’ to Boult, Kiddle says: “Adding a new layer of tax to those offering accommodation will raise prices and drive tourists away.
“It will push more visitors into the informal sector and into the freedom camping market.
“It will increase the price differential between us and alternative accommodation centres, diverting overnight stays away from our district.”
Kiddle argues it’s unfair only one sub-sector should stump up, when all businesses in tourist hotspots like Queenstown benefit from tourism.
“Tourists spend only 14 per cent of their NZ holiday money on accommodation.
“Taxing 14 per cent of the spend is missing a much wider opportunity.”
He says his preference for funding infrastructure from a slice of the huge GST take is also favoured by about 80 per cent of Tourism Industry Aotearoa members.
In their covering letter, he and Mill also say a bed tax would increase administration and management costs for accommodation operators.
Less than a day after contacting other operators, Kiddle said 13 had signalled their support.
“Obviously 13 is a good number given the mayor’s threat to take legal action against me and my wife.”
Asked about a bed tax, long-time local hotelier Mark Rose says: “I think that we all understand that it’s probably inevitable that something will happen if the government legislates for it.”
However he believes the tax should be equitable so that it also applies to Airbnb operators, for example.
“If we’re going to do a bed tax, it’s got to be for everybody.”
He’d also appreciate if his sector could have some input into the discussions.