Edinburgh first UK city to plan ‘tourist tax’

Edinburgh is set to become the first UK local authority to introduce a ‘tourist tax’ after councillors agreed a proposal for a Transient Visitor Levy (TVL) scheme, which could be introduced next year if it wins approval by the Scottish government

Edinburgh’s TVL will be set as a flat rate of £2 per night, which the council said was the most straightforward approach, compared to a percentage charge, and also the preference of the accommodation providers who will need to administer the levy.

It will apply to all accommodation types within council boundaries including short term lets such as Airbnb, hotels, B&Bs, and hostels, but visitors staying in campsites would be exempt. There will be a cap of seven consecutive nights, designed to protect seasonal and festival workers who stay in Edinburgh for extended periods of time.

The council estimates introducing a TVL will raise £14.6m a year, which it says will be reinvested into providing sustainable investment in supporting and managing the impacts of tourism within the city.

Edinburgh council leader Adam McVey, said: ‘The capital’s population is increasing rapidly and visitor numbers continue to grow, due to Edinburgh being a fantastic place to live, work, visit and invest.

‘Our economic strength has brought us a great deal of success as a city but the reality is, without an additional income stream, we will struggle to manage and support this success in future.

‘Tourism and hospitality are key drivers of our economy and this levy provides us with a way to sustainably support its continued success and reduce impacts on residents all year round.’

Edinburgh is following in the footsteps of other popular tourist destinations, including Rome and Barcelona, which have introduced tourist taxes in response to rising visitor numbers. The Scottish capital had 1.75m foreign visitors on average annually between 2015 and 2017, making it the second most-visited in Britain after London. Hotel occupancy was the highest among all UK cities in 2017, at an average of 83.7%.

The TVL plan was backed by 43 votes to 15 in the council vote and will now be recommended to ministers and MSPs for consideration, and is not likely to take effect until next year.

Details of Edinburgh Transient Visitor Levy consultation are here.

Report by Pat Sweet

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