Four in five Scottish small firms are against plans to introduce a so-called ‘tourist bed tax’, according to a Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) poll.
The survey of 682 firms shows that 82 per cent of Scottish businesses are against mooted proposals to impose a levy on visitors’ accommodation bills, while the Scottish Tourism Alliance and British Hospitality Association have also voiced their opposition.
Several Scottish politicians have suggested a new tax on visitor accommodation could help to relieve pressure on council finances.
The mood among firms operating in Scotland’s £9.7 billion tourism industry is even harder, with 88 per cent of tourism businesses rejecting the proposals.
86 per cent of tourism businesses said that the move would have a negative impact on their enterprise, while almost four in five members of the wider business community (79 %) said that the move would impact negatively on the local economy.
FSB is therefore urging both the Scottish Government and local councils to rule out these proposals.
Amanda Frazer, FSB’s Highlands and Islands regional chair, who also runs a Bed and Breakfast in Newtonmore, said: “These figures are stark but unsurprising. Scotland’s accommodation providers don’t want to levy a tax on our visitors.”
Colin Borland, FSB’s head of external affairs in Scotland, said: “While we understand that public sector budgets are under pressure, FSB cannot support the introduction of a regressive tax on visitors.
“Tourism is a key industry for Scotland and the ambitious targets we have to increase the number of return visitors could be undermined by these proposals.”
The poll showed that while a majority of businesses in all parts of Scotland reject the idea, businesses in rural Scotland, especially in the Highlands & Islands, were especially critical of the proposals.
Marc Crothall, the chief executive of the Scottish Tourism Alliance (STA), said: “Despite tourism being acknowledged as the country’s most important industry, it is increasingly challenging for Scotland to remain competitive as a destination.
“Therefore applying a further cost to visitors is, in our opinion, not a sensible approach to take.”
Willie Macleod, the executive director in Scotland for the British Hospitality Association (BHA), said: “The BHA believes that it is iniquitous to single-out and penalise overnight visitors to pay an additional tax simply for visiting a destination and making a contribution to the local economy.
“The Association will continue robustly to resist any proposal to introduce tourist taxes in Scotland.”
Notes to Editors
1. The poll was conducted between 4 April – 11 April 2016 with 420 tourism and 262 non-tourism businesses responding.
2. Asked “Do you support the introduction of a tourist tax?”
Full sample: No – 82% Yes – 18%
Tourism firms: No – 88% Yes – 12%
Non-tourism businesses: No – 71% Yes – 29%
3. Asked “What impact would a tourist tax have on your business?”
Full sample: Negative – 51%, Slightly negative – 15%, No impact – 32%,
Positive – 1%, Slightly positive – 1%
Tourism firms: Negative – 72%, Slightly negative – 14%, No impact – 10%
Positive – 2%, Slightly positive – 2%
Other businesses: Negative – 17%, Slightly negative – 15%, No impact – 67%, Positive – 0.5%, Slightly positive – 0.5%
4. Asked “What impact would a tourist tax have on your business?” What impact would it have on other businesses and the local economy in your area?
Full sample: Negative – 63%, Slightly negative – 16%, No impact – 12%
Positive – 5%, Slightly positive – 4%
Tourism firms: Negative – 72%, Slightly negative – 12%, No impact – 10%
Positive – 2%, Slightly positive – 4%
Non-tourism businesses: Negative – 50%, Slightly negative – 21%, No impact – 16%, Positive – 7%, Slightly positive -6%
5. Highland council’s group leader has suggested a tourism levy – Northern Times
Edinburgh city council leader has argued for a tourism levy – Edinburgh Evening News
Kenny MacAskill has also argued for a tourism levy – Herald
A tourism bed tax was also suggested by the Commission on Local Tax Reform
6. More details about the Scottish Tourism Alliance and the British Hospitality Association
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