Tourism faces crisis

THE tourism industry in Galloway has been dealt a heavy blow with the announcement that the sale of static caravans will no longer be protected by a tax loophole and will be subject to a 20 percent VAT from October.

With around 40 caravan parks west of Castle Douglas, amounting to thousands of plots – a large percentage of which are bought and sold by regular visitors to the area – this is bad news for holiday park owners and tourists.

The tax bombshell comes in the same week that VisitScotland began promoting the area as a “staycation” destination. And with visitors facing record fuel prices – with another petrol and diesel hike to come soon – the triple whammy has been widely condemned.

Marshall Swalwell, whose family own Auchenlarie and Anwoth Holiday Parks near Gatehouse, with more than 550 static caravans, says this news spells gloom for Galloway.

“We wholeheartedly fear that our businesses and the local area could suffer very badly,” he said. “George Osborne has grossly underestimated the number of holiday parks, stating there are 500 in the UK and that the effect will be minimal. A figure of a 30 percent drop in sales has been projected. There are in excess of 500 parks in Scotland alone and more than 50 in our region. A 30 percent drop in sales for the Swalwell Holiday Group alone could mean a loss of up to 50 sales.”

He added: “As tourism is the second most important industry [second only to forestry] in our region, the effect on us and the many important supporting businesses such as visitor attractions, shops, restaurants and related partners in construction, repair and wholesaling, is almost unthinkable.

“The local caravan industry’s comment to Mr Osbourne and co is - please think again. Some other European countries are reducing the equivalent of their VAT to encourage tourism as this is seen as a way to kick-start consumer spending and therefore their economies.

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