A Perth and Kinross tourism tax could raise at least £1million for council coffers, mitigating the effect of cuts in visitor hotspots such as Loch Leven, Pitlochry and Dunkeld.
The council is considering the tax – which proposes a small, additional charge on overnight stays – after the Scottish Government announced a consultation on giving councils the power to levy the charge earlier this week.
But as new council figures reveal revenue from tourism in Perth and Kinross has grown over the past five years, with winter festivals alone generating £1.8m, the hospitality industry has attacked the plan, saying it will “kill the goose that laid the golden egg.”
Councillor Willie Robertson of the Liberal Democrats, said he has been discussing the idea with colleagues in the administration.
He said the money raised could be used to keep toilets open all year round in Pitlochry and Dunkeld, empty bins more regularly in tourism hot spots, and help to maintain a network of paths and cycleways around Perth and Kinross.
He said: “Based on a 50% occupancy rate, and a tourist tax of £1 per night, the number of bed nights available in Perth in Kinross would raise over £1 million.
“This excludes caravan sites and holiday rentals. Almost everywhere else in the world uses some form of tourist tax to maintain and enhance their facilities. I think Perth and Kinross should consider doing the same.”
As chairman of Kinross Rural Access Committee TRACKS he said the council was struggling to maintain existing paths and cycleways.
“We built the outstanding Loch Leven Heritage Trail which now attracts 250,000 visitors a year and gives the local economy a significant boost. Yet it is likely to become increasingly difficult to find the money to maintain this. The same applies to path networks throughout Perth and Kinross and important attractions like the Cateran Trail.”
Stephen Leckie, chief executive officer Crieff Hydro and chairman of the Scottish Tourism Alliance, said the industry was strongly opposed to the idea.
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“Why do they want to kill the goose that laid the golden egg? Tourism represents something like a growing 5% of the economy. They haven’t thought it through and that’s the whole point of the consultation. It will show the people who want to introduce a tourism tax what could happen if they do it.”
He said new research will show that for every £1 charged in a tourism levy, £4.50 is taken out of the local economy.
“What they’re basically saying, is that these nasty, horrible tourists, lets tax them. It’s not very welcoming when they already they pay the highest air departure tax in the world and the highest VAT rates in Europe. Scotland is already an expensive place to visit.
“If they are going to do is charge a tourism tax to subsidise things the council should be doing anyway then that’s all wrong.”
William Macleod, Scotland executive director for trade organisation UK Hospitality, said it opposes the tax.
He said research indicates a £2 per room, per night levy, as being proposed by Edinburgh City Council to raise an estimated £11 million annually, could result in a £175 million economic hit if applied nationwide.
Marc Crothall, chief executive of the Scottish Tourism Alliance, warned introducing the tax could push tourism businesses “over the cliff”.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon launched a public consultation into giving councils the power to levy the charge at a tourism industry event earlier this week.
She said: “The Scottish Government has no plans to introduce a tourism tax. However, we do recognise that some local authorities are making the case to have the power to do so, should they consider it an appropriate response to local circumstances. We believe this issue does require very careful consideration.”
A Perth and Kinross Council spokesperson said: “The council will submit a response to the official consultation in due course.”