The Scottish Government has published the new Visitor Levy (Scotland) Bill which will, if passed, give councils the power to apply a levy on stays in overnight accommodation based on a percentage of the accommodation cost.
However, Councils are required to consult communities, businesses and tourism organisations before putting a visitor levy in place which will include how any revenue raised should be spent.
The Scottish Government has also invited representatives from the tourism industry, COSLA and other partners to join an expert group to consider how it could best be implemented if passed.
Marc Crothall, Chief Executive of the Scottish Tourism Alliance (STA), said, “Proposals to introduce a visitor levy in Scotland have been contentious for the tourism sector for a number of years and for many reasons. We have accepted that this is a policy which will be implemented within the next three years and are pleased that the Scottish Government has adopted the key recommendations which have been put forward formally by the tourism and hospitality industry.
“The STA welcomes the fact that the Bill supports our ask that revenue raised from a Visitor Levy must be spent on enhancing Scotland’s tourism economy.
“Following on from the publication of the STA’s Local Visitor Levy Manifesto in January this year, developed in close consultation with Scotland’s tourism and hospitality industry, we have been working with Scottish Government to ensure that the Visitor Levy legislation introduced to the Scottish Parliament protects and enhances our competitiveness as a global tourist destination.
“All income raised by any local authority that decides to proceed in implementing a Visitor Levy must be used to enhance tourism, which as a sector, delivers significant economic benefits for the nation and our communities. The Visitor Levy must be viewed as a force for good, rather than being labelled as a ‘tourism tax’, which is extremely damaging for Scotland’s reputation as a desirable tourist destination to domestic and international visitors.
“The tourism and hospitality industry are keen to continue working with the Scottish Government and local authorities to ensure the best possible outcome for Scottish tourism, ensuring that it contributes to our shared national ambition to become the world leader in 21st century tourism.
“The Scottish Government has also adopted the STA’s recommendation to establish a working group, announcing that an expert group will be formed to ensure best practice in how a local authority implements a Visitor Levy. Transparency, stakeholder engagement and accountability will be key in how the levy is deployed.
“The STA will continue to work with the Scottish Government to ensure that the introduction of the levy does not have unintended consequences for tourism and hospitality businesses, and that there is time for businesses to prepare and establish structures for its collection.
“We must get this right for visitors, businesses, communities, and local authorities, while protecting Scotland’s global image as a must-visit destination.
“The introduction of the Visitor Levy (Scotland) Bill presents an important opportunity as part of the Scottish Government’s reset and commitment to a New Deal for Business, to set an example on how policy development and early engagement with business can result in better regulation.
“We, and our industry colleagues will continue to seek to ensure that the legislation takes account of our manifesto recommendations in all stages of its development, and that if introduced by local authorities the levy is introduced in a clear and consistent manner to deliver the best possible outcome for Scottish tourism.
Tom Arthur, Public Finance Minister said, “There have been significant contributions to the Bill so far from the tourism industry, COSLA and other partners and I look forward to continuing to work with them as it progresses through Parliament.”
COSLA Resources Spokesperson Councillor Katie Hagmann said, “COSLA is well aware that Scotland’s councils and communities have a great diversity of needs – what works for one council will not necessarily be suitable for another. We welcome the flexibility offered by this legislation, and will consider if there are opportunities for it to go further. We are looking forward to seeing further investment both in tourism and our communities in the future.”