THE BLOG
23/02/2015 05:54 GMT | Updated 25/04/2015 06:59 BST

A London Tourist Hotel Levy for London

I am in good company when I say that London is the greatest city in the world. Vivienne Westwood quite rightfully said: "There's nowhere else like London. Nothing at all, anywhere".

It's not simply because I'm running for mayor that I say this.

We are home to the British Museum, the world's the largest urban history museum. We have four UNESCO heritage sites. For the arts, London is the home to Europe's most popular art gallery, the magnificent Tate Modern. For education, we have 43 universities, 4 of which are in the top 40 in the world, and we have a higher proportion of graduates than any other major city.

The O2 Arena is the most popular music venue in the world, and let's not forget Broadway, the West End and over 17,000 performances in over 300 venues for every genre of music imaginable. We are a fashion capital, not simply as a destination for shopping, but home to world-renowned designers and a Fashion Week that continues to push boundaries and grow.

In the world of sports, there are nearly too many things to mention: be it the Olympics (hosting it 3 times); Wembley, or the myriad world-class football clubs, two of the world's most famous cricket grounds in Lords and the Oval, and there's of course Twickenham - the world's largest stadium dedicated solely to Rugby. there are many more examples, oh, I almost forgot to mention Wimbledon - point made.

The Elizabeth Tower, better known as Big Ben is the most photographed clock in the world and one of the world's most visited tourist attractions. Its chimes resonate across the world over the BBC's world service. Time, for much of the world, starts in Greenwich, London and ends there.

It will not come as a surprise to hear, then, that London is the world's most popular tourist destination, with over 18.6m visitors annually, making Rome look like Bognor Regis and the booming tourism industry is showing no signs of relenting.

This should be no cause for complacency, however. On the contrary, there is always scope for innovation, and we must never close our minds to change. The tried and tested continental practice of the bed tax is one such improvement that I find hard to ignore.

A Modest Hotel Room Occupancy Levy to Benefit Londoners

Looking at other cities around the world there's a great opportunity to generate new income to benefit the lives of Londoners (and the tourists that visit us).

Rome alone makes €82m (£64m) a year from its hotel tax from just 5.97m tourists. Their model is a fixed amount per hotel star rating. Paris charges a City Tax based on the grading of the hotel and the town it's in. New York bases theirs on a formula of a set amount based on the room value as well as a 5.875% addition, not per person. Berlin levies a tax of 5% of the room rate (net), but has a business traveller exemption.

My Proposal for London

I propose a Hotel Tax of £1 per hotel star rating, plus £1. Under my proposal, the maximum charge would be £6 per room, based on a five star hotel. The revenues that follow would form the basis of my new London Fund. What kind of money, though, are we talking?

Well, based on 2013 statistics showing that 15.5m overseas visitors stayed in London for 94.3 million nights, and assuming an average tax under my proposal of £3.50, we'd be generating about about £350m.

I would, admittedly, like to make this a tourist focused tax, so Londoners and visitors from the rest of the UK will see no changes in the prices of their hotel stays. If however we're forced to charge the 12.2m people from the UK staying the 27.7m nights they currently do, the additional revenue would be of £94.5m.

So, we're talking almost half a billion pounds a year extra, all of which could be re-directed to the benefit of London - on initiatives to improve London for Londoners and make us an even more attractive destination.

For The Benefit Of Londoners

Say 'public art or installations' and, like many Londoners, my eyes glaze over. Say '888,246 ceramic poppies cascading from a window and filling the moat of the tower of London' and my heart fills with pride. Say 'solving the homeless crisis' and my heart weighs heavy with the size of the task. But when you discover that the amazing No Second Night homelessness project that attempts to ensure no one in London need ever spend more than one night of their life on the street only receives 1.2m a year in funding, you can see just why I would be so excited to have half a billion to spent.

Londoners may struggle to pay for housing or travel to work, but what if we had the money to open all public attractions and museums late every Thursday? A Culture Night. Let's raise the game in London, affording Londoners the possibility to visit these wonderful places that would otherwise be closed to them as they peer through condensation misted windows of their busses as they slog home. With this money, I could do this and still have change for a Garden Bridge a year.

My colleagues on the left promoting politics of envy - because it's the only way they can tap into votes - would have you hate our rich visitors and guests. Over the next few months I'm going to demonstrate how we can encourage even more of the visitors who make London such a vibrant place, whilst ensuring that they contribute their share to development and furtherment of this city.

Being the tourist destination or home of choice for the world's elite has its own challenges, but it is a potential cash source like no other. Punitive taxes on the super rich will just scare them off - but barely noticeable taxes, such as these, with the aim of enhancing the city they love, can change it effortlessly.