What value do we place on the cultural life of the nation? What would our cultural landscape look like without our vigorous arts sector? As the Minister for the Arts heads an ever-expanding portfolio (rural affairs) with a diminishing budget, there’s a call to mimic Europe’s oldest cultural destinations in adopting a tourist tax akin to that of France and Italy. This would appear to be a sound idea from Europe and one answer to The Heritage Council’s call on the government for ‘ground-up initiatives’ to nurture the arts. See Irish Arts Review Summer edition editorial. See too the press release issued by Visual Artists Ireland (below) and follow the comprehensive Dáil debate this evening from 4.30 to 6.30 on the Arts In Ireland.
Visual Artists Ireland:
In a report to be issued next week, Visual Artists Ireland, the All Ireland representative body for visual artists, shows that the introduction of a tourist tax could raise over an additional 48,000,000 Euro for the cultural sector based on CSO statistics issued for bed nights in 2015.
The financial reality for the culture sector is such that organisations who have survived the draconian cuts to the central cultural budget are still suffering as they attempt to delivery quality art programmes across the country. Our most recent 2016 report shows that 76% of visual artists in Ireland live under the poverty line. Reports from other art forms show similar figures. This decline mirrors the fall in core arts budgets and despite the one-off extra financial supports sent out by the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht pre-election, there appears to be only verbal promises and no concrete evidence that significant funding will be made available any time soon.
Following research into other areas of funding across Europe, it was seen that European countries who have introduced Tourist Bed Night taxes have seen little negative impact on their visitor numbers. In France a per person per night charge of up to €2 is in place. Germany breaks it down per region and can be either up to 5% or €1 to €3. Italy also breaks it down per region with rates between €1 to €5. Catalonia has also introduced the take of €.45 which includes cruise ships as well as other forms of tourist accommodation.
The CSO statistics show that Hotels, Guest Houses, and Bed & Breakfasts accounted for 24,104,000 bed nights in 2015. With a proposed levy of 2 Euro per person per night, the culture sector could gain an extra €48,208.000 to go towards a fair social welfare system for artists who have precarious incomes, and also go towards additional funds for the Arts Council who has the remit to support individual artists at all stages of their career and the arts organisations who work with them. If Rented houses / Apartments are taken into the mix there is potential for an additional €18,858,000. Figures are unknown for cruise ship nights but it can be clearly seen that numbers become significant when spread across the entire tourist accommodation sector.
Noel Kelly, CEO of Visual Artists Ireland, stated “Visitor numbers are up, we need to guarantee that we give them what they and the Irish population deserve. The government has long asked for alternative routes to finding additional funding the the support of the arts. There is no one panacea, so we feel that as part of a blended funding strategy, this introduction would instantly bolster a group of people and organisations who are on their knees. The government supports for the big name projects is welcome, but we need this to have a long term sustainable source of core funding directed specifically at supporting artists and arts organisation.” He added “Of course we expect resistance from the tourism industry to this idea, but from what we have read in international studies, the introduction of this form of taxation only hurts if operated on a small local basis rather than as a national strategy. We fear that Ireland can suffer from an insecurity in this matter and it is up to each of us to find ways to support the arts, which are a strong selling point for tourists and international corporates setting up in Ireland.”