The introduction of a ‘tourist tax' in Edinburgh has been supported by 85% of respondents to a consultation, with the city council claiming the results "dispel fears" that the hospitality industry would oppose the move.
More than 2,500 responses were received during Edinburgh City Council's eight-week consultation. While 85% of all respondents expressed strong support for the levy, this fell to 51% among accommodation providers. UKHospitality has stressed that the 51% amounts to 87 of the 170 accommodation businesses that responded to the council's survey representing, respectively, 4% and 8% of the city's accommodation businesses.
Council leader Adam McVey said: "Once again, we are finding that there is a huge swell of support for a tourist tax in Edinburgh with residents and all types of business backing a scheme that is fair, sustainable and one which would be reinvested into the ongoing success of our tourism and hospitality industry and the services which matter most to local people.
"Edinburgh welcomes over four and a half million visitors annually, spending over £1.8b. Our tourist economy is extremely strong and expected to continue to grow. A majority of businesses agree the vibrancy of our industry wouldn't be threatened by a small levy but would benefit from the additional investment. Interestingly, this includes more than half of accommodation providers, dispelling fears in certain quarters that the industry wouldn't support a transient visitor levy (TVL)."
UKHospitality executive director Willie Macleod said: "UKHospitality (UKH) is concerned at the assertion by City of Edinburgh Council that 51% of accommodation providers in the city are supportive of a tourist tax or TVL being introduced in the city. UKH is in no doubt that the vast majority of accommodation businesses in the city (including hotels, serviced apartments, B&Bs, hostels and self-catering properties) are opposed to a TVL. This is clear among the independent operators and larger chains in UKH membership and from the membership of the Edinburgh Hotels Association."
The industry body said it was opposed to the tax primarily on the grounds of price-competitiveness and added that it would be naïve to assume that any additional tax would have no effect on visitor behaviour.
UKHospitality has previously said that a tourist tax could cost Edinburgh £45m.
The council has proposed a charge of £2 per night or 2% of room cost, chargeable all year round on all forms of accommodation, but capped at seven nights. It has said this would raise between £11.6m and £14.6m each year.
The majority (41%) of respondents favoured a flat charge per night, with 72% agreeing that it should be around £2 or 2% of accommodation costs.
The consultation also saw 81% of respondents favouring a cap of at least seven days to protect festival performers and other non-leisure visitors.
The city council will not be able to impose the tax without legislation from the Scottish government. Scotland's first minister Nicola Sturgeon had previously said she was opposed the levy but in October announced the launch of a national consultation into the granting of the powers required for its introduction.
A final proposal will now be developed and forwarded to the Scottish government.