Our industry needs greater support not another tax

By Gillian McKenzie

THE number of overseas visitors coming to Scotland at an all-time high, a bumper year for whisky tourism, a record season for cruise ships – 2018 wasn’t short on positive tourism tales.

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But beyond the happy headlines, as we are all too well aware, many operators are having a tough time.

Costs continue to rise; business rates are simply ridiculous; and, of course, there is the great unknown that is Brexit.

Yet it is against this precarious backdrop that the proponents of a tourist tax continue to make the case for the levy.

Edinburgh City Council published the findings of its consultation on a transient visitor levy earlier this month, saying the research showed “overwhelming support” for one, although its claims on the level of support from accommodation businesses were questioned by trade groups; and Highland Council is poised to launch its own tourist tax consultation. Meanwhile, the Scottish Government’s “national discussion” on a visitor levy closes tomorrow.

It remains to be seen where things go from there.

But taxing visitors to a country which is already considered to be at the bottom of the heap on price (the UK is ranked 135/136 on price competitiveness by the World Economic Forum) and has one of the highest rates of VAT and Air Passenger Duty seems nonsensical to say the least.

The powers that be know only too well how important the tourism and hospitality sector is to this country’s economy; they must do all they can to support the industry, not lumber it with another tax.