There is "no need to delay" the proposed tourist tax for Edinburgh according to the leader of the city council, despite concerns for the city's recovering economy post-Covid.
Scottish politicians debated the introduction of the Transient Visitor Levy (TVL), which would potentially allow the City Council to have access to the funding stream from summer 2021 at an Edinburgh World Heritage online discussion on 5 June, with the majority arguing it should not be delayed.
Council leader Adam McVey, who spent three drafting a business case for the tax, said: "I don't see the need to delay it at all. Had we had the tourist tax in place already before this [pandemic] kicked off we would have had a funding stream that already existed to fund the recovery of the hospitality sector. This is not an anti-tourism thing, this is about sustainable tourism."
However Jeremy Balfour, Scottish Conservative MSP, raised concerns about the ability of the tourism industry to be able to recover if the tax was imposed too soon: "I think we need to give our hotels, our restaurants, our tourist trade as much help as we can - to introduce this at this moment would not be the right time. We need to get our tourists back into the city and let's not put them off in any way at all."
The TVL is an additional charge on visitors staying overnight in paid accommodation, including hotels, and is added to the bill either at the time of booking or when checking out. In February 2019, the City of Edinburgh Council had voted in favour of the controversial levy of £2 per room per night. It is estimated that the tax would raise £14.6m a year for the city which welcomes over 4.5 million visitors a year spending over £1.8bn.
Alison Johnstone, MSP for the Scottish Greens, added: "We have been long-term supporters of a transient visitor levy and I'm not convinced there is a need to hesitate, but there is a need to work cross-party together."
In January 2019 it was reported that an introduction of a tourist tax in Edinburgh was supported by 85% of 2,500 people surveyed during an eight-week consultation by Edinburgh City Council, falling to 51% of accommodation providers in support.
The council initially consulted on the TVL in October 2018 but following the coronavirus pandemic announced that the legislation was being put on hold.
Legislation will be needed from the Scottish government before the tax can be levied.