No tourist tax before 2021, says Hyslop

“No compulsion” for local authorities to introduce levy

Fiona Hyslop addressed the STA conference

COUNCILS will not be able to implement a tourist tax until 2021 at the earliest, tourism secretary Fiona Hyslop has said.

Speaking at the Scottish Tourism Alliance (STA) Signature Sessions conference in Glasgow last week, Hyslop said the Scottish Government had to agree to legislate for a transient visitor levy (TVL) earlier this year in order to secure the support of the Scottish Greens to pass a Budget she said “provides certainty and stability for taxpayers and businesses”.

But she told more than 450 hospitality and tourism industry delegates at the conference that the requirement to consult and legislate means local authorities will not be able to levy a tax in 2019 or 2020. She also stressed that there will be “no compulsion” for local authorities to implement a TVL.

As reported in SLTN, the Scottish Government was accused of “selling out” the hospitality sector when finance secretary Derek Mackay announced plans to give councils powers to introduce a tourist tax in order to win support to pass the Budget – just days after the Scottish Government’s ‘national discussion’ on a tourist tax closed; it published the findings of that last week and a formal consultation is due to follow.

Addressing the STA conference, Hyslop acknowledged that Scotland’s tourism sector is “fragile” and in what she described as a “very competitive” international market. Visitor numbers are up, she said, but spend per head has not risen at the same rate.

Hyslop also acknowledged some of the challenges facing hospitality businesses, including rising costs and the potential impact of Brexit on staff.

“The last 12 months have been a period of unprecedented success for tourism in Scotland, with international visitor numbers growing strongly and visitor attractions reporting record figures,” said Hyslop.

“We recognise that we cannot take this success for granted and that the UK government’s proposed EU exit, coupled with rising costs both for businesses and individuals, is creating challenging conditions for this key industry.”

The conference also heard from travel broadcaster and author Simon Calder, who spoke about the potential impact of Brexit on tourism.

“The travel industry is in complete disarray: flights from Edinburgh to Germany for £13 in April, or a week’s package in Malta for £180,” he said. “Westminster is committing criminal damage against Scottish tourism.”