Tourism comes at too high a price
John Clark writes…
First published: April 2004 – Gazette & Herald
In 1939 my mother and grandmother were tourists. How did they manage this? There was no Yorkshire Tourist Board, no marketing brochures, no dual carriageways and no Tourist Information Centres. The local council did not pour £350,000 into encouraging them to come. Neither did the council spend £100,000 plus cutting the verges so as to ‘attract the tourists’. My family stayed for two or three weeks despite the fact that there were no gift shops or ‘tourist attractions’. They came because of the countryside, the way of life and the peace and quiet.
Ryedale District Council, with the exception of Nelly and myself, supports tourism with our money. What is the logic in taxing people to support businesses that are successful and that damage the environment not only in Ryedale but worldwide.
If £140 million comes into Ryedale each year, why can’t the £350,000 currently paid by the Council Tax payers to support tourism be paid for by tourism? Compare this with the present situation where every time £400 goes in the till, RDC goes “Isn’t that good. Here is another £1 from the Council Tax payer”, many of whom are the lower paid working in tourism.
Even bigger problems are the environmental, economic and cultural damage done by tourism. Good reasons for taxing it rather than subsidising it. Tourists are encouraged to fly from overseas or drive the length of the country. No one seems to have an environmental cost figure. Maybe if someone could work it out we would stop supporting tourism. ‘Four by Fours’ travelling the length of the U.K. carrying mountain bikes to come for an ‘eco-friendly holiday’ add the following to the ecological footprint:
- Use of fuel. 500 miles in a weekend.
- Extra roads outside Ryedale
- Loss of fields and hedgerows
- Widening of country lanes and possible duelling of the A64
- The extra accommodation required i.e. their house in the south and the holiday cottage/2nd home/hotel or B&B room are both needed
All this increased use of fossil fuels and other resources results in pollution and greenhouse gases. This in turn leads to climate change, part of which is flooding in Ryedale. Flooding causes damage to property and more precious resources and energy are needed for flood barriers. No wonder the councillors only look at the gross income side of tourism. How much damage has to be done and at what cost before someone says ‘enough is enough’?
The social and cultural impact of tourism again appears not to have been measured. If the smaller properties become second homes and holiday cottages, the bottom rungs of the housing ladder disappear. As a result, young local people have to move out of their villages to make way for businesses and rich people’s toys. The effect is a dramatic loss in the cohesion of our communities.
The decisions of councillors are destroying our environment, our culture and the social fabric, not to mention taxing the poorly paid so that they can be poorly paid. The only hope in all this gloom is that it is democratic. At present the public could stop this abuse by voting them out. This democratic power is about to be lost. A Yorkshire structure is to be created ‘to exploit further the potential of the tourism sector for the benefit of tourism business, visitors and the residents’ – so they too believe it’s good for the residents to be taxed and polluted.
Yorkshire Forward has a ‘Regional Tourism Marketing Plan’. Targets will be set and it will market and promote Yorkshire tourism across the UK and overseas. It will create demand from other regions. Yorkshire Forward is proposing more tourism and even more environmental damage through cars and planes. Who will pay for this? Why, the Council Tax Payers of course! Ryedale District Council is being asked by Yorkshire Forward to contribute the ‘whole or part’ of its tourism budget. The £350,000+ will have become compulsory.
Tourism, aided and abetted by Ryedale District Council, will have destroyed the reason for my family coming to Ryedale. The only remaining question is where will people wanting ‘the countryside, the way of life and the peace and quiet’ go in the future – probably not Ryedale.