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Highland Council's tourist tax consultation branded ‘astonishing'

15 August 2019 by
Highland Council's tourist tax consultation branded ‘astonishing'

Highland Council's decision to launch a consultation into implementing a tourist tax has been described as "astonishing" by UKHospitality.

The authority has said a visitor levy could raise between £5m and £10m, which it claims would be invested into the tourism sector.

Launching the consultation chairman of Highland Council's Environment, Development and Infrastructure Committee, Cllr Allan Henderson, said infrastructure and services were struggling under the pressure of tourism, with approximately four million overnight visits made each year.

UKHospitality has said it is "astonishing" that the council would spend public money on a consultation at this time, given that the Scottish government plans to consult on the same subject nationally later this year.

Following this consultation, the Scottish government will decide whether to introduce legislation that would give councils the power to implement a tourist tax, something they cannot currently do.

Highland Council leader, Cllr Margaret Davidson, has argued that the results of its consultation will inform its representations to the Scottish government.

She added: "Tourism is of huge importance to the Highlands. We recognise the benefits, challenges and impact that tourists have across the area and are committed to supporting this industry to ensure its success is sustainable.

"A Highland transient visitor levy is one option the council is considering to raise income to manage the challenges tourism is both facing and contributing to in Highland."

Tourist taxes have long proved controversial, with operators and industry bodies arguing that any additional levy has an impact impact price competitiveness and could ultimately hit visitor numbers and those operating in the area's tourism sector.

Responding to Highland Council UKHospitality's executive director for Scotland Willie Macleod added: "The council's interest in squeezing businesses, at a time when costs are continually rising, is very disappointing. Margins for employers are already shrinking and we are facing a level of political uncertainty that is near-unprecedented. To even consider heaping more and more costs on businesses that are vital to the economic success of the Highlands at this time is ridiculous.

"The timing of the consultation is also dubious. Schools have now returned following the summer break so the views of Scottish families who holiday in the Highlands, and who will bear the cost of any tourist tax on future holidays, may not be heard. We hope the council reconsiders its approach and avoids pursuing any measures that would threaten Scotland's hospitality businesses."

Edinburgh Council consulted on implementing a visitor levy last year and has said it will push ahead with plans if the Scottish government passes the required legislation.

Tourist tax: easy money or industry killer?>>

Edinburgh Council to draw up tourist tax plan after winning vote>>

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