The Scottish Government last week (Wednesday 24th May) formally introduced the Visitor Levy (Scotland) Bill into the Scottish Parliament. The Bill enables councils to invest more in local tourism facilities and services through introducing a charge on overnight stays in some types of accommodations.
If passed, this legislation would allow councils to impose a percentage-based charge on overnight accommodations costs, with the specific rate determined by the local council. Any funds generated through the visitor levy would need to be reinvested exclusively in local facilities and services that significantly cater to or are used by visitors. The legislation aims to enhance the tourism experience and benefit local communities and their economies. Nevertheless, the implementation of a visitor levy would require councils to engage in consultations with communities, and crucially, tourism businesses and tourism organisations. These consultations would serve the purpose of gathering input on various aspects, including the appropriate utilisation of the revenue generated from the levy.
The Scottish Government has also invited representatives from the tourism industry, COSLA and other partners to join an expert group to consider how the levy could best be implemented.
In response to the introduction of the bill, Gordon Morrison, Chief Executive of the Association of Scottish Visitor Attractions said: ’I am aware that the introduction of such legislation divides opinions withing ASVA membership, when last surveyed on the subject there was an even split between those in favour and those against. However, one thing that unites all on this subject is that, if such legislation is passed, all income raised by any local authority that decides to proceed in implementing a Visitor Levy must be used to enhance and support the tourism offering in this country. From personal experience of working in local authority attractions, I know that there is chronic underfunding in tourism product and infrastructure at local authority level. Using the levy to support our sector can and must be viewed as a force for good, and it is important that we rid the label of ‘tourism tax’, which is extremely damaging for Scotland’s reputation as a desirable tourist destination to domestic and international visitors.
ASVA is committed to continue working with the Scottish Government and local authorities to ensure the best possible outcome for Scotland’s visitor attractions sector, ensuring that the Local Visitor Levy will actually contribute to the tourism industry and will support our shared national ambition to become the world leader in 21st century tourism.’’
Read the latest on the Visitor Levy (Scotland) Bill here.