Edinburgh businesses say ‘no’ to a tourism tax

Friday May 18th 2018

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New research conducted by the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) reveals that Edinburgh businesses are firmly opposed to the City of Edinburgh Council’s plans to introduce a tourism tax to the city.

A new survey of city businesses has shown that the vast majority oppose the introduction of such a tax (76%) and believe that it would have a negative impact on the local economy (73%).

Janet Torley, FSB Area Leader for the East of Scotland, said:

“This is a wake-up call for the City of Edinburgh Council, signalling that its plans to introduce a tourism tax in the city are unwanted and potentially damaging.

“Despite the caution which the Scottish Government has urged over this tax, the City Council has pressed ahead with the development of a ‘business case’ for its introduction. Now it is clear that the overwhelming opinion of local businesses is ‘no’.

“Edinburgh is at the very heart of Scotland’s tourist industry – it is our most visited city, it has our busiest airport, and it is home to some of our most iconic landmarks. Edinburgh’s success as a magnet for international tourists is vital to the economic health of visitor economies right across the country. If we tax tourists out of Edinburgh, then we risk taxing them out of Scotland, damaging the prospects of small local businesses throughout Scotland and threatening jobs.”

Visitors spend £1.46 billion each year in Edinburgh, supporting around 34,800 jobs.

“Edinburgh must value its tourists, not price them out, and by working together with tourism and hospitality businesses, the Council should be an active player in growing the city’s attractiveness to tourists and residents alike.

“At a time when the City of Edinburgh Council is working hard to harness the economic potential of new direct air services linking the capital to China, it is ironic that it seems to be carrying on regardless with plans to penalise these tourists and local accommodation providers. We have written to the City of Edinburgh Council highlighting these points.”

Plans for a tourism tax have also been criticised by other industry bodies.

Marc Crothall, Chief Executive of the Scottish Tourism Alliance (STA), said:

“The STA recognises the need across most destinations for an increased level of long- term sustainable investment, however applying a further cost to visitors is, in our opinion, not a sensible approach to take.

“The need for Scotland to become more competitive as a destination for visitors to travel to and spend money in is now greater than ever in relation to our impending exit from the EU. Any such visitor tax/levy being applied is counterproductive and could have a potentially devastating long-term impact on Scotland’s tourism industry and local economies.”

Fiona Campbell, Chief Executive of the Association of Scotland’s Self-Caterers (ASSC), added:

“The introduction of a tourist tax would threaten the existence of many small businesses across the Scottish tourism sector.

“The findings of FSB’s survey chime with our own membership which suggests that, if government wants to help Scotland’s vital tourism sector, the last thing it should do is burden it with an anti-growth tourist tax.”

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