The picturesque city of Bath is on the must-see list for most visitors to the United Kingdom.

Built around natural hotsprings, it's famous for the Roman-era bath houses that gave it its name, for its grand Georgian architecture, and for being the one-time home of literary icon Jane Austen.

But Bath, in the southwestern English county of Somerset, looks set to become famous for a whole new reason - as the first city in the UK to slug visitors with a tourist tax.

Tourists would have to pay the tax to stay overnight in the historic city, in addition to the basic room rate and value-added tax, under an idea floated by the local council.

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Bath is famous for its Roman-era bath houses. Photo / 123RF
Bath is famous for its Roman-era bath houses. Photo / 123RF

Conservative councillor Charles Gerrish told BBC Radio Bristol the proposed "tourist bed tax" would apply to hotels and bed and breakfasts as the council faces £37 million ($A60 million) in cuts over the next five years.

"We're looking at options for generating additional revenue," he said.

"If you go on holiday in Europe, in many countries when you stay in a hotel, you are asked to make a very small contribution to the local authority in addition to your hotel bill.

When I stay in Italy, for example, I pay something like one euro per head per night.

"It is something we believe in an area that receives as many tourists as we do from all over the world, we ought to be allowed to consider."

Rome, Florence, Berlin, Paris, Barcelona, Prague and the Balearic Islands are among the European cities that charge tourist taxes, and despite parts of Scotland toying with the idea, the levy has not yet been introduced in the UK.

And idea has attracted criticism in Bath, which has the highest hotel rates outside London, The Independent reported.

The Royal Crescent, a heritage street in the English city of Bath. Photo / 123RF
The Royal Crescent, a heritage street in the English city of Bath. Photo / 123RF

Carla Brooks from Brooks Guest House in Bath said the proposed tax sent a "really bad message".

"It says, 'if you come to Bath, we'll tax you for the privilege of coming'," she said.

The British Hospitality Association (BHA) has opposed tourist taxes and has actually called for a reduction to the existing value-added tax, which is the highest rate across Europe.

The BHA also warned the number of leisure tourists arriving in the UK had dropped for the second consecutive month, despite expectations of a "Brexit boom".

The chief executive of Visit Bath, David James, told The Guardian he wouldn't want Bath to be the first in the UK to introduce a tourist tax.

"I'm not against considering it, but I wouldn't want us to be the first. We will be labelled 'the tax city of the UK'. We market ourselves as the UK's most beautiful city and that's what I would like to keep as our accolade," he said.

In a statement, Bath and Northeast Somerset Council said it was exploring the idea of a tourist tax but "no decision could be made without a change in legislation at a national level".