Theme Park, Amusement Park and Attractions Industry News

Green taxation

by Kevin Williams

Across the globe rates of entertainment tax vary greatly, but they need not always dip into a venue’s profitabilility. Some operators have attempted to secure a zero rate, and in a few cases they have even been successful, the Malaysian trade association MAAFTA recently succeeding thanks to a government that is clearly keen to encourage tourism development.

If only others were more sympathetic. Various European governments have sought to levy tax on tickets and admissions to make up for shortfalls in other areas or to account for the impact on local services (roads, power and water etc) caused by visitors to local attractions.

It appears that amusement venues may be able to minimise the effect of taxes in future, however, if they become more environmentally responsible – or they will be clobbered if they don’t. ‘Green taxation’ is a new tool that is increasingly being incorporated into the armoury of government.

The need to offset carbon emissions (for example the green house gasses generated by those travelling to amusement venues by air or car) is slowly beginning to see the entertainment sector check itself for sustainability.

Water conservation and reprocessing schemes are being factored into new park development, wind and solar power devices are being placed in car parks, and some venues are now asking their guests to recycle their waste. What are you doing?

Walt Disney World (pictured right) is beginning to switch to non-toxic, biodegradable cleaning products in all its hotels, and even using ‘cleaner’ fireworks in its end of night displays. In fact, the entertainment giant has formed an internal ‘Green Team’ to ensure compliance with environmental law, and so avoiding fines from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.

In the UK the gallery and museum sector received its own wake-up call when the British Government declared that every venue should attain a rating to show the energy efficiency on its site. Failure to display the certificate publicly would result in a £5,000 fine; a move seen by some in the industry as the beginning of indirect taxation for the museum industry to achieve a ‘greener’ business.

In summary, I would like to suggest amusement parks could receive a three tier tax hit in future. The first level would be the local taxation that has always been there, while the second would tax venues according to things like guests’ travel arrangements and the park’s own use of sustainable resources. The third level, possibly reflected in the price of goods inside the park rather than the ticket price, would pay for waste disposal and processing.

While it might be relatively easy for new venues to address sustainability issues and incorporate them for the outset, for operators of older parks it will be much more difficult to become green overnight. Better start making plans now then, unless you want even more tax!

Kevin Williams is founder of the out-of-home consultancy KWP Ltd and publisher of The Stinger Report, a free industry e-newsletter and web-based information service

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