Tourism businesses backs Edinburgh tourist tax in consultation, despite industry lobby opposition

Ben Wray

85 per cent of respondents issued strong support for the proposals, with nine per cent strongly opposed. 

A MAJORITY of businesses and accommodation providers have backed proposals for a tourist tax in an Edinburgh City Council consultation, in contradiction to the tourist industry lobby which has made high-profile attempts to oppose the plans.

Edinburgh City Council published the results of a consultation on the tourist tax, which would see either 2 per cent of the hotel cost or £2 levied on tourists when staying in Edinburgh. The money would go towards public service provision which, the council say, is partly under strain from the huge numbers of tourists who visit the Scottish capital every year. 

More than 2560 individuals took part in the consultation, which found 85 per cent expressing strong support for the proposal, with 9 per cent strongly opposed. 

Ninety per cent of Edinburgh residents were in favour, as well as 77 per cent of businesses, 67 per cent of tourist attractions and 51 per cent of accommodation providers. 

Sixty-seven per cent felt the £2/2 per cent rate was the right amount, while 18 per cent felt it was too low. 

READ MORE: Nicola Sturgeon announces government consultation on tourist tax

City of Edinburgh Council leader Adam McVey, said of the findings: “Once again we are finding that there is a huge swell of support for a tourist tax in Edinburgh with residents and all types of business backing a scheme that is fair, sustainable and one which would be reinvested into the ongoing success of our tourism and hospitality industry and the services which matter most to local people.

The results suggests that the tourism industry is substantially behind the proposals, despite an open letter to McVey in December last year from a number of tourist industry representatives and lobbyists, including UK Hospitality, Best Western Great Hotels Britain and the Scottish Bed & Breakfast Association, which opposed the levy.

The letter stated that the proposal for a Transient Visitor Levy would be “hugely damaging to the tourism and hospitality sector and undo much of the positive work that the council has done to promote the city as a thriving tourist destination.”

The consultation findings were also in contradiction to a survey carried out by the Federation for Small Businesses Scotland, which found 76 per cent of small businesses in the capital were against the plans. 

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The Scottish Tourism Alliance (STA) has also opposed the proposals. 

Despite the consultation backing for the SNP Council leader’s plans, the Scottish Government is yet to agree to handing the local authority the power to introduce such a levy.

The Scottish Government has previously opposed a tourist tax, but Nicola Sturgeon indicated last year that she was open to listening to the case for the proposals, and in October announced a Scottish Government consultation on the issue while addressing the STA.

READ MORE: Airbnb set to be regulated as short-term lets amendment to Planning Bill goes through

Sturgeon said: “We will be accepting the STA’s call for an objective process of consultation – involving the STA, Cosla and other key partners – which will examine in detail the arguments for and against a tourism tax.

“We are determined that all voices will be heard and that the details of the process will be properly set out shortly.”

Also in October last year, a significant amendment to the Planning Bill promoted by Scottish Green MSP Andy Wightman was passed which would see the short-term lets sector, dominated by the digital platform Airbnb, regulated.

Edinburgh is one of the Airbnb capitals of the world, with a four times greater concentration of Airbnbs than in London and Paris.

Picture courtesy of Alex Donohue