Edinburgh Council say there is overwhelming support for Edinburgh’s Visitor Levy plans

Friday March 8th 2024


Written by Midlothian View Reporter, Luke Jackson

Edinburgh Council says Edinburgh residents, visitors, and industry have backed plans for a visitor levy in their thousands, an engagement exercise has revealed.

Generating close to 4,000 responses in total, a four-week survey conducted by the Council over Christmas and New Year found broad support for the aims and objectives of its Visitor Levy for Edinburgh proposals.

The survey found that Capital residents and community groups are particularly keen to see some of an Edinburgh levy reinvested towards enhancing essential public services, such as keeping the city clean and moving.

Business groups, who have largely fed back via focussed engagement sessions, express greater support for dedicated destination marketing and industry support, while everyone tends to agree a levy should be simple to administer and support the protection and enhancement of Edinburgh’s heritage and world-famous cultural offering.

The full findings – which echo evidence gathered by Council officers over the last six years – will be presented to Councillors on the Policy and Sustainability Committee next week.

Members of the Scottish Parliament’s Local Government, Housing and Planning Committee will also meet on the same day to debate amendments to the national Visitor Levy (Scotland) Bill which, if set in legislation as the Visitor Levy (Scotland) Act this Spring/Summer, will allow Scotland’s local authorities including Edinburgh to charge a levy on overnight accommodation.

With much of the Capital’s scheme already researched and developed, Edinburgh is well placed to formally consult on and finalise its plans and is likely to become the first city in the UK to formally adopt a city-wide visitor levy.

Cammy Day, City of Edinburgh Council Leader, said:

“Edinburgh has been lobbying the Scottish Government for more than a decade for the local powers to introduce a visitor levy. Finally, we are edging closer to this long-called for legislation.

“Throughout the years, we have repeatedly and actively engaged with our tourism and hospitality industry, as well as with residents, seeking views at various stages on the type of visitor levy Edinburgh needs. At every turn, we’ve had overwhelming backing at a community level and have witnessed growing support from those in the tourism and hospitality industry. This is only building as we head towards the last Parliamentary hurdle.

“Edinburgh has an enviable reputation across the world as a bucket list destination and just this week was crowned Europe’s Leading Cultural City Destination at the World Travel Awards and listed as the best city in Scotland to live in, visit and invest. We’re very proud that Edinburgh is one of the world’s most popular visitor destinations, but we’re equally aware that this success comes at a cost. A small overnight charge is common practice in other major cities and destinations, so why not here? The introduction of a levy will provide a funding stream that would be reinvested in the city and our infrastructure, to the benefit of our visitors and, crucially, the people who live here in our great Capital city all year round.

“While I welcome how far the Bill has come, I also echo the concerns shared by COSLA last week that it needs to allow visitor levies to be more flexible and quicker for Councils to roll out. Now that Edinburgh is ready to lead the introduction, I hope to see these adopted in the amendments Members of Parliament debate next week.”

Commenting on the results of the City of Edinburgh Council’s consultation on the proposed Visitor Levy for the city, Garry Clark, Development Manager for the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB), said:

“Members of the Federation of Small Businesses welcomed the opportunity to discuss the Visitor Levy proposals with the council and they gave a clear view that tourism businesses must be at the heart of the development of a strategy for this new tax in the city. Whilst some small accommodation businesses have concerns that they may end up absorbing some of the cost of this tax, there was a wider view that the needs of small businesses must be prioritised in determining how the Visitor Levy is to be collected and spent.

“Over the past year, we have seen how the clumsy adoption of measures affecting tourism businesses in the city have resulted in the decimation of the city’s short term let sector. Edinburgh cannot afford for the council to get the Visitor Levy wrong too. FSB would strongly counsel against moves to accelerate the introduction of this tax. We cannot afford another botched job affecting Edinburgh’s tourism economy, driving up the cost of staying in the city even further and pricing even more visitors out of the city.”

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