Industry attacks tourism chief over bed tax ‘hysteria'
Industry leaders have hit out at Edinburgh council's tourism chief after he attacked the "hysteria" from people who criticised proposals for a Scottish tourism tax.
After the Burt Inquiry last week recommended introducing a discretionary power for councils to apply a tourism tax, hospitality and business groups responded angrily, insisting the levy would cause irreversible damage to the Scottish economy.
But Donald Anderson, Edinburgh council's tourism and culture leader, hit back, claiming it was impossible to have a "logical debate" about tax.
"Hysteria breaks out whenever tax is mentioned," he said. "People think it's just greedy politicians trying to get more money out of everyone - but a tourism levy would not be like other taxes because it would not be on local residents. We need to have a mature debate."
His comments were seized upon by industry leaders as evidence that politicians didn't understand business.
"Scottish politicians need to live in the real world," said Bob Cotton, chief executive of the British Hospitality Association (BHA). "If a tourist tax is imposed, it will raise prices and damage Scottish tourism at a time when it aims to increase visitor spend by 50% by 2015. Some hope.
"And to say that only visitors will pay is ridiculous," he added. "It will affect every resident of Scotland who travels around the country."
Grant Hearn, chief executive of Travelodge, described Anderson as "naïve".
"You can't call for a debate and in the same breath get upset when no one agrees with your idea," he said. "It's easy for Anderson to call the reaction ‘hysteria'; it's not his job on the line. People are fighting for their livelihoods - their response is understandable."
Hearn, who has 22 hotels in Scotland, has threatened to pull out of the country completely if the tax is imposed.
"I fear for tourism in a city where the council tourism leader is so out of step with the industry," he said. "Anderson's tourism tax will make Edinburgh a destination for the rich only - what kind of message does that send to potential visitors?
Reaction to tourism tax proposal
"One of Edinburgh's main economic drivers is tourism. What's the sense of damaging it with a separate tax, which will only lead to fewer visitors, lower income but more form filling and more bureaucracy?"
Gavin Ellis, chairman of BHA Scotland
"Tourism is one of Scotland's success stories, but our tourism businesses face significant global competition and additional taxes will raise costs and make it much more difficult for them to compete."
Iain McMillan, director of CBI Scotland
"A localised tax is completely unnecessary and will unfairly target tourists who are relatively low users of public services. They already pay airport tax and VAT on most purchases on top of their contribution to the economy."
Fiona Moriarty, director of the Scottish Retail Consortium
By Daniel Thomas
For more on the bed tax, see www.caterersearch.com/bedtax
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