Highland tourist tax could raise up to £10m per year

A tourist tax in the Highlands could raise up up to £10 million per year for the region, according to council officials. 

Highland tourist tax could raise up to £10m per year

The estimate was released as Highland Council began a public consultation on the plan. The public consultation includes an online questionnaire aimed at residents and businesses, but is also open to visitors and can be found here. This questionnaire is open to the public until October 20. The public consultation will also include face-to-face questions.

Council officials have also been studying similar schemes operating in other countries. However, the council has yet to make a final decision on whether to implement a Transient Visitor Levy (TVL).

It is estimated that four million overnight visitors come to the Highland Council area every year as well as about two million day visitors. Supporters claim that the tax could raise funds to support local infrastructure and the free services which exist in Highland Council areas, but some businesses are worried it could deter tourists.

The council has said the money raised could be reinvested in tourism infrastructure as well as relieving general financial pressures.

Allan Henderson, committee chairman, said: “Highland welcomes visitors numbering roughly 25 times our resident population every year. Whilst visitors are very welcome, some of Highland’s infrastructure and services are struggling under the pressure of these additional users.”

He added: “Ultimately, the council, with the help of everyone who responds to the consultation, needs to decide what is better for our region: introducing a visitor levy, with its potential positive and negative impacts - or not implementing a visitor levy, avoiding potential negative impacts but limiting possible investment and therefore leaving the region with the problems we currently face.”

Council leader Margaret Davidson said: “Tourism is of huge importance to the Highlands. 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.”

She added: “The consultation has been shaped by lots of research and engagement with the public and tourism industry to ensure we are asking the right questions.It does not simply gather information on people’s support or opposition, it gives respondents lots of opportunity to help us shape what a levy might look like were it to be implemented.”

Some business leaders have expressed concern that the tax could deter tourism.

David Richardson, Highlands and Islands development manager for the Federation of Small Businesses, said: “We would argue that protecting, preserving, enhancing and encouraging the economy is fundamental to all our futures.”

He added: “The Highland Council makes no secret of its determination to raise money by taxing visitors. And it thinks by doing so that it will have no negative impact on tourism. But our research over the past three-years shows that a substantial majority of businesses are against a new visitor tax. For a whole variety of reasons.”

The Scottish Government has also committed to introducing legislation by 2021 which would allow local authorities throughout Scotland to implement similar taxes.

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