Tourism lobby group hits out over Edinburgh bed tax bid

Under the 'bed tax' plans, rates could rise during the festivals season. Picture: Lisa Ferguson
Under the 'bed tax' plans, rates could rise during the festivals season. Picture: Lisa Ferguson
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The most powerful voice for the UK tourism industry has vowed to oppose Edinburgh city council’s con troversial bid to bring in a bed tax – branding the idea unfair and unwanted.

The British Hospitality Association attacked the prospect of visitors to the capital being charged extra to soften the impact of public funding cuts.

The 40,000-member body claims it would be unfair for hotels to be “singled out” .

The BHA said its research has found that visitors to the UK are already paying “significantly more” tax than in most other European cities.

It added that it would be “naive” for the city to think visitor numbers would be unaffected by the extra charges.

Supporters of the proposed scheme believe it could generate more than £15 million a year to help protect the city’s festivals, arts venues and marketing efforts, which face cuts.Higher charges could even be imposed during peak periods like the Edinburgh festivals season and the Hogmanay celebrations to help meet their costs.

However, the introduction of a tourist tax is being resisted by organisations such as Visit­Scotland, which believes it could damage tourism.

The BHA said it would be “iniquitous and inequitable” for hotel guests to be “penalised” when other accommodation providers, including people using sites like Air­bnb, would not face the charge.

Senior figures claims city centre hotels already pay almost £500,000 on average in business rates alone.

Ufi Ibrahim, chief executive of the BHA, said: “Tourism generates almost £5 billion for Scotland each year, which in turn creates a ripple effect to many other business and leisure sectors including retail, entertainment, business services and transport.

“We reject the idea that hotels should be targeted to fill gaps in local authority finance or funding for the arts, culture or tourism marketing.

“Hospitality and tourism are highly price-sensitive, and domestic and international visitors have significant destination choice, as do business tourism and event organisers. Our industry is already faced with significant challenges in price-competitiveness versus other destinations.”

Willie Macleod, executive director of the BHA in Scotland, added: “There should be no new mechanisms to raise tax from visitors until our rates of VAT are comparable to our EU competitors.”