Hotel industry lobby group warns tourist tax could be 'disastrous'

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Britain’s most powerful hotel industry lobby group is to launch a major crusade to try to scupper the Scottish Government’s plans to introduce a tourist tax north of the border amid warnings it will be a “disaster” for employers.

UK Hospitality has issued “a call to arms” to hotel operators and other accommodation providers to target MSPS across the country to ask for help to block the creation of new powers for councils.

The proposed powers have been opposed by tourism bodies in Scotland amid prolonged uncertainty over Brexit. Picture: Ian Rutherford

The proposed powers have been opposed by tourism bodies in Scotland amid prolonged uncertainty over Brexit. Picture: Ian Rutherford

The body claims the introduction of the UK’s first tourist tax would “batter hotels and undermine Scotland’s reputation as a tourist destination.”

Ministers in the SNP administration at Holyrood agreed to introduce legislation for a “transient visitor levy” earlier this year in return for support for its budget from the Greens.

Some councils, such as Edinburgh, want to add an extra £2 to the cost of staying in all forms of accommodation, including apartments booked via Airbnb.

However the proposed powers have been opposed by tourism bodies in Scotland amid prolonged uncertainty over Brexit.

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UK Hospitality, which represents more than 700 UK operators, has urged tourism businesses to fight against what it describes as “a costly and bureaucratic burden on accommodation providers” and object to an going Scottish Government consultation.

UK Hospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls said: “The introduction of a tourist tax in Scotland, or anywhere in the UK, would be incredibly damaging to the hospitality and tourism sector.

"Unfortunately, the government seems keen to burden businesses with even more taxes. Its introduction, at a time when businesses face so many uncertainties, could be a disaster for many employers.

“We have to make sure the government is in no doubt that we oppose this. We need to make our voices heard collectively and tell MSPs that a tourist tax would batter hotels and undermine Scotland’s reputation as a tourist destination.

“Other businesses that depend on tourism spend, such as other hospitality sectors, would also be affected. The sector needs to present a united front and deliver an unambiguous message.”

Not a national levy

A spokeswoman for the government said: “We’d encourage as many people as possible to respond to our consultation on the principles of a transient visitor levy before it closes next month, prior to the introduction of legislation.

"This would not be a national levy. It will be for individual authorities to decide whether or not to apply a charge.”

Edinburgh City Council leader Adam McVey said: “Our plans are fair and balanced and provide us with a way to sustain the fantastic success of our city.”