Lots of issues animate our local residents. One of them is the Byron Bay bed tax – or how to get tourists contribute to the upkeep of the place. Byron Bay gets over two million visitors every year. That equals a lot of potholes further down the track. Most of these tourists buy things and stay in paid accommodation. That helps local businesses, who pay rates, etc, but none of that cash flows to Council coffers to help with basic services around infrastructure and upkeep.
The option most discussed is a bed tax and has been around for as long as I can remember. The idea is that every time someone books a hotel or B&B, there is a surcharge on top that goes straight to Council. Sounds great, but not actually legal. This idea has been proposed numerous times but always gets knocked back by the NSW government as it is not allowed.
Port Douglas and Noosa
The idea now being floated is the bed tax is voluntary and call it a levy. Port Douglas Shire in North Queensland has experimented with a voluntary bed tax. Noosa Council has also introduced a levy across all businesses to cover the infrastructure costs of tourism.
The Byron voluntary bed tax idea has been floated many times. It has never got the support of the powers-that-be at the state level. Mayor Simon Richardson is now hoping to get it through Council as a voluntary contribution. He needs to get a lot of businesses to sign on.
Byron Council has met with a number of local businesses in June to discuss the details. The idea is visitors would be charged 1% for anything costing over $100 and capped at $5. Mayor Richardson said the money would then be collected and audited and a panel would decide what projects to fund, which could include much-needed toilet and shower blocks, playgrounds and cycleways.
The proposal needs to be supported by enough businesses to make it work. There are already a few signed up. These things have an administration cost so only get profitable when it reaches critical mass. One negative however is that Council looks like it is not inviting the Airbnb businesses to be involved. That sounds a bit churlish. This could be a good way to bring the local short-term holiday letters back into the fold – and make em pay!
For more on how Byron is suffering under the “over tourism” problem. Have a look at the BPS previous article on Death by Tourism.