UKHospitality Executive Director Willie Macleod has slammed Edinburgh council and the results of a survey that comes out in favour of the implementation of a tourist tax in Edinburgh.
Tourists say they would not be deterred from visiting Edinburgh if a tourist tax was introduced according to an independent survey, commissioned by Marketing Edinburgh. A survey of visitors to Edinburgh at the height of the summer tourist season has found that 92 per cent would still come to the Capital if they faced a levy of £1 per room per night, while 78 per cent said they would not be put off even if the proposed tax was as high as £4 per night.
A similar survey of residents found 59 per cent backing for a tourist tax.
The findings come as council leader Adam McVey is due to argue the case in favour of the tax before the Scottish Parliament’s culture and tourism committee at Holyrood today, urging the Scottish Government to give councils the power to levy a tourist tax.
The survey was carried out by market research company Progressive in July an August, and interviewed 519 residents – evenly split between those living in and around the city centre and those living in other parts of the city – and 561 paying overnight visitors – 10 per cent from Scotland, 35 per cent from the rest of the UK and 56 per cent from overseas.
He said, “We are outraged by the sheer lack of meaningful consultation that has taken place to date. Both individual local authorities and COSLA have singularly failed to listen to the informed views of an industry that understands its consumers. They are ignoring the Scottish Government’s consistently stated position that it has no plans for a tax on tourists and that the interests of the hospitality and tourism industry must fully be taken into account through consultation.”
Macleod is equally perturbed by the views of the tourist industry not being heard. “There has been no thorough examination of options or any assessment of the impact on businesses or consumers. Hotels and tourist businesses are already major contributors to public funding and there remains a distinct lack of clarity from all local authorities proposing a tax, as to what the money would be spent on and what actual benefits would be delivered. The tax is vehemently opposed by a wide spectrum of tourism businesses, not just within the accommodation sector. Their views and opinions have not been heard, ” he added.
Macleod also thinks that comparing Scotland with other EU countries which have successfully introduced similar schemes isn’t like comparing like with like. He said, “Whilst some might argue that other EU countries have successfully introduced a tourist tax, this is not a level playing field – most EU countries which have any form of tourist tax have levels of VAT on hotels and tourism services which are half the level of that applied in the UK. Visitors to Scotland pay one of the highest rates of VAT on tourism services in the EU, the proposed tax is anti-competitive and not in the longer-term interests of businesses and its consumers.”
He continued, “Visitors, especially from overseas, are unlikely to decide against a destination simply because there is a tax on tourists. There is clear evidence that price increases have a negative impact on overall visitor spending. This will affect bars, restaurants and attractions, will result in a decline in visitor demand and will threaten the jobs of some of the 200,000 people working in the industry in Scotland. UK Hospitality is therefore calling on the Scottish Government to recognise that a tourist tax is not a viable means of plugging a local government funding gap.”