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Scots unwilling to pay tourist tax at proposed level

Edinburgh Festival crowd
A tourist tax would raise £15m for Edinburgh (pic: Terry Murden)

Scots supporting the introduction of a tourist tax would not be prepared to pay it at the levels currently being considered, according to a survey.

Although nearly a third (29%) of Scots would be against paying anything at all, a fifth (22%) would be willing to pay up to £1 per night, 24% would pay £1-2 and 13% would pay more than £2, averaging out at just over £1 per night overall. 

However, this is lower than the levy being proposed by a number of councils. Edinburgh, which has suggested £2, believes a levy would raise £15m for the city.

The Visitor Levy, enabling local authorities to introduce a tax, was included in the Programme for Government on 6 September and is expected to be put before the Scottish Parliament early in the new year. It would not be introduced until 2026.

Paris, Rome, New York, Florence, Venice, Milan, Barcelona and Bruges are among the cities which already have a tourist levy.

The survey last month of 1,000 Scots conducted by 56 Degrees Insight for the Scottish Tourism Alliance found a clear division of opinion on the tourist tax with 48% opposed to its introduction and 44% in favour.

Support was highest among Edinburgh residents, with 57% in favour, though this is significantly lower than the findings of a city council consultation in 2018 which revealed that 85% of 2,500 respondents supported its introduction. This latter survey was conducted at a time when the Festival was in full swing.

If tourist levies of the type proposed are to be introduced, respondents demanded clear communication of how the income would be reinvested in the local economy if it is not to act as a potential barrier to taking domestic holidays. 

Nearly half (46%) of the sample said a levy would make them consider a holiday elsewhere in the UK.

The survey found that Scots are still taking fewer holidays than before the pandemic and that the cost-of-living crisis is now biting into holiday intentions for 2023.  More than half (58%) felt their holiday choices were still being impacted by the pandemic.

More than a third (38%) hope to take more holidays next year, although 20% expect to take fewer.

Marc Crothall, chief executive, of the Scottish Tourism Alliance said: Our industry is key to the recovery and growth of the Scottish economy as a major export earner, employer and contributor of revenue to every one of our communities.

“From Covid to the cost-of-living, Scottish tourism faces unrelenting challenge with the new tourism tax adding yet more uncertainty and risk at the worst possible time.

“While opinion is broadly split on whether this tax is a good thing, appetite for anything over £1 per visitor a night is negligible. These findings assume the money raised goes to help the sector; it is simply vital that it does if the tax proceeds.”

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