Claims of deterring visitors
Hospitality groups sign letter opposing city tourist tax
There are fears that fewer tourists will visit Edinburgh if they are forced to pay tax (pic: Terry Murden)
A group of tourism and hospitality groups have written to Edinburgh City Council outlining their opposition to its proposal to introduce a tourist tax.
In a letter to council leader Adam McVey the 10 hoteliers and association representatives argue that it would be “hugely damaging” by driving visitors away, thereby reducing the city’s income and costing £45 million.
“As we continue to navigate Brexit, now is not the time to be pushing Scotland further out of reach,” they say.
They point out that “VAT on accommodation in Scotland (and across the UK) is much higher than virtually all other EU countries including those which levy some form of tourist or bed tax.”
We are writing collectively to express our complete opposition to the City of Edinburgh Council’s proposals for the introduction of a Transient Visitor Levy (TVL)/tourist tax in the city.
Such a measure 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.
Edinburgh is a world-class tourist destination, bringing huge benefits to the city and residents through jobs, income and great places to eat, drink and visit. However, we live in a global, price-sensitive economy and any imposition of a tourist tax on consumers will inevitably lead to fewer visitors and lower spending, affecting jobs and investment. The tax proposed in Edinburgh will cost that city’s economy £45 million – £175 million if implemented across Scotland.
Hospitality is critical to the Scottish economy, directly employing 275,000 people and supporting about 30,000 jobs in Edinburgh. Total tourist spend in 2017 from Edinburgh visitors was £1.5bn. A visitor levy would have far reaching implications in terms of our attractiveness as a destination as well as diminishing overall spend. As we continue to navigate Brexit, now is not the time to be pushing Scotland further out of reach.
Edinburgh Council’s consultation ignores the fact that VAT on accommodation in Scotland (and across the UK) is much higher than virtually all other EU countries including those which levy some form of tourist or bed tax; the UK is one of only three EU countries not to apply a reduced rate of VAT to accommodation and tourism services. Additional taxes on Edinburgh businesses will only make the sector even less competitive at a time of great economic uncertainty.
The hospitality sector pays hundreds of millions of pounds in business rates, making a huge contribution to local authority services across Scotland, proportionately overpaying by more than any other in relation to revenue.
The consultation by Edinburgh Council pre-supposes support both for principle and the imposition of a tourist tax, support for which does not exist within the hospitality sector. Helpfully, the Scottish Government has intervened to hold a national conversation on the issue and we are engaging in that process. It is, however, important that Edinburgh Council does not pre-judge the outcome of that process.
Edinburgh Council needs to heed the voice of hospitality, drop its proposals and work with the sector to develop a dynamic and customer-focused strategy that will help keep the city – and Scotland as a whole – at the forefront of global destinations.
Chief Executive, UK Hospitality
Chair, UKH Scotland
Chief Executive, Best Western Hotels Great Britain
Managing Director, Queensferry Hotels and on behalf of Edinburgh Hotels Association
Chief Executive, Apex Hotels
Chief Executive, Scottish Youth Hostels Association
Cluster General Manager, Radisson Hotels
Chairman, Scottish Bed & Breakfast Association
Chief Executive, Association of Scotland’s Self Caterers
Managing Director, Scottish Licensed Trade Association