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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
This summer has seemed worse than ever, with really severe over-crowding around the main tourist hotspots to the point at which the tourists themselves aren't comfortable. It's become unbearable to try to walk around some areas at busy times.

I know a lot of thought goes into distributing the crowds, but it doesn't seem to work, hence Westminster Bridge is unbearably overcrowded with tourists while Lambeth Bridge (with better views) is nearly deserted.

Is it time for a daily tourist tax to limit numbers and raise funds to pay for better facilities?

I do wonder if the sheer weight of tourists will start to make London unattractive for business, because workers need to be able to walk around during the day, including lunch-hour, and it's becoming really hard to do that.
 

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http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-28891464

London priciest European city for culture, says survey

London is the most expensive city in Europe for cultural activities, a survey has suggested.

A visit by two people to an art gallery, a museum, a heritage site, the opera, the ballet and a classical concert costs a total £256.

The survey, by Post Office Travel Money which looked at 12 major European cities, said London was even pricier than Paris for tickets.

It said the cost was high despite some art galleries and museums being free.

Warsaw in Poland was found to be the best value of the cities polled, with cultural trips costing £70.

That was followed by Budapest at £80, Prague at £93, and Dublin at £102.

Andrew Brown, of Post Office Travel Money, said prices varied dramatically across the 12 cities surveyed - all of which boasted world-class cultural attractions.

"This means culture vultures can save hundreds of pounds by doing their homework before booking and swapping expensive cities for cheaper ones," he said.
 

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Seems unfair to blame tourists for London's failings in masterplanning. The spread isn't ideal because London still has too many dead areas, left overs from its industrial past and more recently from the abysmal road-centric post-war rebuilding to the plot based planning system.

There are plenty of areas that can be used to diffuse crowding. Take Oxford St, there are many interesting side streets and squares just off it that could contain retail and resting areas and while there have been countless plans to encourage their use over the past 20 years none of the plans have been initiated due to the flawed road system and lack of political will. Even the links to popular Soho are dead from the Oxford St side. The same with the links between The British Museum/Tottenham Court road and Covent Garden.

The Parliament Sq improvement debacle certainly doesn't help that area and the uninviting Embankment dual carriage-way doesn't help Westminster Bridge one bit. Westminster Bridge could easily have a traffic lane removed for pedestrian use.

Future plans such as the Garden Bridge to diffuse crowds from the south bank and Covent Garden to the North embankment and some sort of coherent bus and delivery traffic management around Oxford Street will help matters.

Maybe the underground ring road will be the real key to pedestrian crowding in central areas but will have to wait a few decades for that!
 

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I do wonder if the sheer weight of tourists will start to make London unattractive for business, because workers need to be able to walk around during the day, including lunch-hour, and it's becoming really hard to do that.
Surely one of the joys of being a "local" in London is having the knowledge to be able to smugly walk through a couple of side streets to avoid the tourist crushes?

It's far from perfect, but doesn't seem much worse than any other major city. I doubt that many Barcelona office workers frequent La Rambla at lunchtime.
 

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http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-28891464

London priciest European city for culture, says survey
That's interesting - but a bit unfair to London.

the museums and art galleries are free and there's plenty of heritage sites that you can walk around for nothing.

There are a lot of rip-offs - but if people are coming to London for high quality, good value, ballet and opera then they really are in the wrong place.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Surely one of the joys of being a "local" in London is having the knowledge to be able to smugly walk through a couple of side streets to avoid the tourist crushes?

It's far from perfect, but doesn't seem much worse than any other major city. I doubt that many Barcelona office workers frequent La Rambla at lunchtime.
Yes, I know you are right - one can usually escape quickly enough, and simply walking on the western side of Westminster bridge is more tolerable than the eastern side. If the local authorities cared, they could deal with choke points, for example it's always seemed mad to allow a post-card/tat stall at north end of Westminster Bridge, as it encourages tourists to linger and mill around in an area that is an important pedestrian route for those walking from Waterloo station to Westminster.

Would I pay? Thinking about other tourist cities, I'd maybe agree to pay £20 a day to walk around Venice if it meant that the crowds were reduced during the day. Maybe I'd happily part with a tenner to walk around Rome, although I've not found that too crowded as it seems to naturally disperse pesky tourists like me. Paris can cope because it has such wide pavements and generously proportioned public places. London.....would tourists pay a fiver or a tenner a day for a day pass to walk around the central areas? Would that reduce numbers somewhat? And should employers be required to pay something for the congestion their own staff bring about - maybe a quid a day per employee? That would mean a head office in the west end/city, with a thousand staff, would pay £365,000 fee a year to the local authority to enhance pedestrian facilities.
 

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I work in Selfridges and I have to say that Oxford Street is a nightmare during the summer and yes tourists are quite annoying, but if it wasn't for the international customers I wouldn't have a job. I work for a high end brand with in Selfridges the local spend in my concession on average makes around 10% of our business so we rely on the international shopper. They buy because they can shop Tax free and spend a lot of money, taxing these people to come to London would be a dreadful idea they would simply go elsewhere.
 

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Would I pay? Thinking about other tourist cities, I'd maybe agree to pay £20 a day to walk around Venice if it meant that the crowds were reduced during the day. Maybe I'd happily part with a tenner to walk around Rome, although I've not found that too crowded as it seems to naturally disperse pesky tourists like me. Paris can cope because it has such wide pavements and generously proportioned public places. London.....would tourists pay a fiver or a tenner a day for a day pass to walk around the central areas? Would that reduce numbers somewhat? And should employers be required to pay something for the congestion their own staff bring about - maybe a quid a day per employee? That would mean a head office in the west end/city, with a thousand staff, would pay £365,000 fee a year to the local authority to enhance pedestrian facilities.
For your proposal to work some people would have to be not willing to pay.

Ultimately the question is is it worth sacrificing some of the economic benefit of tourism for less pedestrian congestion in London? I think politically the answer would be no because the media need only to find a dozen people losing their jobs for it to be painted as silly.
 

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I work in Selfridges and I have to say that Oxford Street is a nightmare during the summer and yes tourists are quite annoying, but if it wasn't for the international customers I wouldn't have a job. I work for a high end brand with in Selfridges the local spend in my concession on average makes around 10% of our business so we rely on the international shopper. They buy because they can shop Tax free and spend a lot of money, taxing these people to come to London would be a dreadful idea they would simply go elsewhere.
I have long been an advocate of scrapping the tax free shopping. Brits don't get tax refunds abroad, so why should we offer that? With foreign businessmen shopping in London alone, scrapping VAT refunds could save several million.
 

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I have long been an advocate of scrapping the tax free shopping. Brits don't get tax refunds abroad, so why should we offer that? With foreign businessmen shopping in London alone, scrapping VAT refunds could save several million.
Over night thousands of Chinese/ African/ far eastern and Middle Eastern customers would choose to spend their money some place that does offer tax free, they would still visit London but for certain would not be spending the money they do now, 90% of our international spend is from tax free shoppers.
 

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Do people really come to London to shop at your store? I imagine international tourists could buy the same products for less from the New York or Dubai branch of a well known international luxury high end brand. More likely international tourists come to London because it is London, not because of the tax free shopping, and then shop at your shop because they happen to be there.
 

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I think the suggestion of £10, £20 for a license to walk around is, well, basically insane, if I can say that without being rude, which I suppose I can't.

like Bowater said your proposal could only achieve half its objectives (reducing tourist congestion) if it was high enough that it put some people off visiting. ergo, unless the new tax from the people who still come outstrips the lost revenue of those who are dissauded, your scheme loses London money, it doesn't fund anything.

and considering the spend per tourist per day on accomodation + food alone (never mind travel or attractions or eddie88's luxury shopping etc) is going to be far more than £10-20 day, my rudimentary maths concludes: this would definitely lose London money.

on the other hand, the other half of your objectives -- improvements to (tourist) infrastructure etc -- strikes me as a reasonable point. I still cannot believe London has only one small tourist information centre in the City, I've been to wee villages with better TIC provision. Potto had lots of good ideas about spreading the load from Oxford st, etc.

In that sense I can see the appeal of a tourist tax to fund such schemes -- but I still don't think you could make it public/visible to the end user, from a 'brand' perspective it's not a good look. So then I thought, maybe some small levy on nightly accommodation rates that is invisibly wrapped into the bill as far as the tourist is concerned, payable by the hotel/hostel/b&b etc.

But then I thought... wait a minute, such places already pay business rates anyway - and artificially ring-fencing some certain segment of that, either in terms of income collection part-calculated per tourist per night, or council expenditure going on tourist-relevant schemes, is going to end up more hassle than its worth.

so overall i dont see how this would work at all. mind you, easy for me to say that, i work in zone 6 so i dont have to put up with it :lol:
 

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Do people really come to London to shop at your store? I imagine international tourists could buy the same products for less from the New York or Dubai branch of a well known international luxury high end brand. More likely international tourists come to London because it is London, not because of the tax free shopping, and then shop at your shop because they happen to be there.
When was the last time you where in a high end store?

European brands are much cheaper here, Prada for example is nearly 3 times the price in china than it is here. British and European lux brands are cheaper in London than in NYC (I know this because I have worked for them in both cities), and most international high end luxury brands are European.

Many many almost too many Chinese customers land and come straight to shop, they do Bond St, Knightsbridge ect then hit Bicester Village before they see Big Ben, their priority is shopping.
 

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I take your point Eddie88 but if the UK is so much cheaper then surely the tax is not going to make a big difference? I imagine the fluctuations in the £ have a greater impact than the tax discount.
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
I think the suggestion of £10, £20 for a license to walk around is, well, basically insane, if I can say that without being rude, which I suppose I can't.

like Bowater said your proposal could only achieve half its objectives (reducing tourist congestion) if it was high enough that it put some people off visiting. ergo, unless the new tax from the people who still come outstrips the lost revenue of those who are dissauded, your scheme loses London money, it doesn't fund anything.

and considering the spend per tourist per day on accomodation + food alone (never mind travel or attractions or eddie88's luxury shopping etc) is going to be far more than £10-20 day, my rudimentary maths concludes: this would definitely lose London money.

on the other hand, the other half of your objectives -- improvements to (tourist) infrastructure etc -- strikes me as a reasonable point. I still cannot believe London has only one small tourist information centre in the City, I've been to wee villages with better TIC provision. Potto had lots of good ideas about spreading the load from Oxford st, etc.

In that sense I can see the appeal of a tourist tax to fund such schemes -- but I still don't think you could make it public/visible to the end user, from a 'brand' perspective it's not a good look. So then I thought, maybe some small levy on nightly accommodation rates that is invisibly wrapped into the bill as far as the tourist is concerned, payable by the hotel/hostel/b&b etc.

But then I thought... wait a minute, such places already pay business rates anyway - and artificially ring-fencing some certain segment of that, either in terms of income collection part-calculated per tourist per night, or council expenditure going on tourist-relevant schemes, is going to end up more hassle than its worth.

so overall i dont see how this would work at all. mind you, easy for me to say that, i work in zone 6 so i dont have to put up with it :lol:
The proposal is to limit numbers, not to raise revenue. It would discriminate against the poorer (or thriftier) visitors, who can least afford to pay. That might be unfair, but then life is unfair, so nothing new there. The money is incidental, and one good use would be to give deprived Londoners free access to facilities they cannot afford to visit, like the Tower of London, St Paul's Cathedral, Westminster Abbey etc. It's scandalous that so many Londoners cannot access the main social and cultural infrastructure of their own city because they are effectively out-priced by wealthy visitors who will pay a lot. How much would the cathedrals get away if they had fewer wealthy overseas visitors prepared to queue for hours to get in?

(And, incidentally, if we charge to visit churches, why not famous streets?)

The thing is, London might actually start to lose wealth and income anyway if it allows one highly polluting industry (ie tourism) to go unchecked. People pollute: they create noise, spread germs, commit crimes, make a mess, and get in one anothers way, and create horrible air pollution when they fly in and out of London. And, beyond a certain density, people start to "teem" and then nobody is comfortable. At a certain point - who knows what that point is - London would be saturated. You may not think that point is reached yet, but if visitor numbers doubled would we be comfortable? Tripled?

So, at some point, parts of London become less attractive to residents or workers due to the sheer weight of visitor numbers in the summer, and they then disinvest (by moving somewhere else to live, or working someone else, or relocating a business). So it's simply not enough to say that a tourist tax damages the economy because it might limit tourism, because tourism itself can distort and damage other sectors of the economy. Look at the downsides of wealth Gulf state petrolhead visitors driving their polluting and noisy motor cars around Mayfair and Knightsbridge: their antics spoil the area for many residents. And who owns the 5 star hotels they stay in, or works in those hotels? Are their visits, with their absurd cars, a huge benefit (or indeed any?) to London? I'm just not sure there is a net benefit. No disrespect to retail and hotel workers, including those on this thread, but a lot of those jobs are not high quality and are not high paid. Don't we want London to move up the skills and productivity food-chain?

London for visitors is a brand, an experience, and it should be protected. It shouldn't be free, the place shouldn't be rammed throughout the summer, it should be a place, and an experience, that people value enough to pay for. If you don't want to pay, well there are very many places you can go for free including other nice places in England. Obviously you'd do sensitivity testing to get the numbers right - I'd guess we'd do well to reduce overseas tourist numbers by about a third in the summer, and one approach might be to charge more in summer and make London cheaper to visit in other seasons, to encourage a better distribution around the year?
 
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