Edinburgh tourist tax could be halted in off-season

A CONTROVERSIAL tourist tax in Edinburgh may only be imposed for half the year, under new proposals to try to win round industry leaders.

Tourists on the Royal Mile/High Street, Edinburgh during the Edinburgh International Festival. Picture: Ian Rutherford

City council officials have suggested a proposed transient visitor levy (TVL) may be targeted at the city’s “peak season” between April and September.

However, the local authority has admitted it would be simpler to operate a scheme that ran all year round.

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It has suggested imposing a tourist tax of either £2 per room or have a percentage added to bills. The levy would be charged for a maximum of seven nights. Campers, backpackers and caravanners may have to pay, as well as people staying in self-service apartments, student accommodation and guest houses.

Money raised from the tourist tax could be used to help pay for street cleaning, bin collections, policing, public transport and the maintenance of parks and gardens.

The proposals have been put forward after a recent opinion poll found just eight per cent of people living in the city wanted income from the levy ploughed into the city’s festivals or other events.

Despite this, the consultation document issued by the council said key priorities included ensuring a sustainable future for “Edinburgh’s status as one of the world’s great cities in terms of culture and heritage”, securing more funding to promote the city as a year-round tourism destination and ring-fencing funding for new tourism, culture, heritage and sporting infrastructure.

The council has launched a major consultation exercise on its proposals weeks after the Scottish Government announced it would be staging a “national conversation” to gauge support for local authorities to win tourist tax powers.

Its survey states: “A percentage of room bill is one way of ensuring that the fee applied is proportionate across different accommodation prices and may be considered a ‘fairer’ option for levying a charge.

“The higher the room cost, the higher the total contribution, while lower room costs would mean lower total contribution. This would also future-proof the scheme against inflation, but could be harder to administer than a flat fee.

“Alternatively, the flat charge is simple to understand and may be simpler to run, but may also be deemed unfair as visitors would pay the same amount irrespective of the accommodation price.

“To address this potential unfairness the scheme could include exemptions for lower priced accommodation, although this would add to the administrative burden. To remain relevant, any flat rate would need to be reviewed periodically to keep it in line with inflation.”

Council leader Adam McVey said: “We’ve always acknowledged the need for legislation in taking this forward but we’ve also maintained the need to develop our own plans to make sure it’s not just any TVL but the right TVL for Edinburgh, taking account of our local circumstances.

“We’re very much listening to everyone involved around what they believe is a fair, simple and workable policy.”