Trade hits out at tourist tax talk

Renewed opposition as visitor levy debate rumbles on

Edinburgh’s levy claims have been disputed

OPERATORS and trade groups have reiterated their opposition to a tourist tax in Scotland, saying a visitor levy could seriously damage tourism and the wider economy.

Renewed opposition to a transient visitor levy (TVL) came as Highland Council prepares to launch its own tourist tax consultation, which it said will “commence in early 2019 and be completed in the spring”; and after the City of Edinburgh Council published the findings of its consultation, which it said showed “overwhelming support” for the introduction of such a scheme.

However, the findings were questioned by trade groups.

Local authorities would require extra powers, granted via an Act of Parliament, in order to implement a TVL in their area.

A “national discussion” seeking views on a tourist tax launched by the Scottish Government last November closes tomorrow (January 25).

And hoteliers and hospitality industry trade groups have again railed against the prospect of such a levy.

Marc Crothall, chief executive of the Scottish Tourism Alliance (STA), said: “We’ve had representation at each
of the Scottish Government round table discussions, all of which have been extremely well attended; however it’s been apparent that some council leaders have not been fully appreciative of the current industry environment and potential impact of a tourism tax, the rising costs that our industry is currently dealing with, and the current tax climate within the UK, which differs greatly from some of the destinations cited as having implemented a tourist tax successfully.

“The STA has shared academic evidence and research that is available to us, citing the negative impacts to the wider economy which all frame and underpin our reasons for being opposed to a blunt tourism tax.”

Emmanuel Moine, chair of Inverness Hotels Association, said a visitor levy would be “damaging to tourism”.

“We think this will affect our already poor price-competitiveness as the UK has already the highest VAT for tourism in Europe,” he said.

“It will apply to all visitors and will increase costs for travellers, including domestic tourists who comprise 60% of Scotland’s visitor market.

“This means additional costs for residents of Scotland who holiday in the country and who are already hard-pressed because of income tax and council tax increases, inflationary price increases, potential interest rate rises and uncertainties surrounding Brexit.”

Shirley Spear, owner of The Three Chimneys on Skye, said the implementation of a tourist tax would be “another hammer blow” for hospitality businesses.

Trade group UK Hospitality has previously said the introduction of a TVL could cost the Scottish economy £175 million a year.

Willie Macleod, executive director for Scotland at UK Hospitality, said: “Our visitors are price-sensitive and it is naïve to assume that any additional tax will come without cost or have no effect on visitor behaviour.”

Colin Borland, a spokesman for the FSB in Scotland, said its research has “repeatedly shown that the vast majority of local businesses from Leith to Lochinver are opposed to the introduction of a new tax on tourists”.