My Column

Time to get onboard for a tourist tax

  • Date: Monday 22nd October 2018
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When I first heard talk of a tourist tax for Edinburgh, my gut instinct was that it was a backwards step that could do more harm than good.

After all, I reasoned, Auld Reekie remains a hugely popular destination with enduring international appeal thanks to a stunning combination of history, architecture, and brilliant visitor attractions.

Why endanger that with a greedy levy on those who are already prepared to make a significant contribution to the local economy? I put myself in the shoes of a tourist and thought, ‘No, that’s just not on.’

However, with a citywide consultation commencing last week, I began to seriously look at the situation – and changed my mind.

The tax – officially known as the transient visitor levy (TVL) - proposes charging either two per cent or £2 per room, per night, to all guests in all forms of accommodation, and the consultation is now seeking views from businesses, investors, residents, visitors, and the tourism sector itself.

The online consultation will last eight weeks while a series of workshops will invite further views.

Under the proposals, the levy would be charged all year round, but capped at seven nights, so longer-term visitors would have a cheaper stay from their second week onwards.

Furthermore, it is thought that it could raise some £11million annually to be spent on managing the impact of growing tourism in the capital.

Indeed, Edinburgh visitor numbers have risen a whopping 18 per cent over the last five years, which equates to half a million extra people, which means overcrowded pavements, traffic jams, noise pollution, and a strain on services, among several issues.

When you consider that this rise alone is higher than Edinburgh’s actual population and it’s clear that there’s a significant issue.

Visitors to Edinburgh are estimated to spend some £1.5bn annually, supporting around 34,800 jobs, but what happens when the balance is tipped in the wrong direction and the city’s most attractive aspects start to be eroded.

And that, to my mind, is where this tourist tax starts to make sense. Suddenly it takes on a more sustainable aspect – of protection and mitigation rather than greed and exploitation.

Residents have long complained that visitors are simply overwhelming the city

Surveys indicate that tourists wouldn’t mind a relatively small charge, and while there is no such charge in placed anywhere else in the UK, it’s actually a popular practice across Europe where it’s understood and accepted.

Almost two-thirds of EU member states impose occupancy taxes on visitors, with some being country-wide, and others confined to cities or particular areas. Some of these taxes are also much higher than what is being proposed for Edinburgh – Paris, for instance, adds 10 per cent to its charges, while visitors to five-star hotels in Rome can expect to pay an extra £6.

If it can work in these big European cities, then why not Edinburgh?

There are also wider permutations. Make it work in Edinburgh first and its example could be rolled out to other areas that are struggling to cope with high visitor numbers – the likes of the Isle of Skye immediately springs to mind.

Scottish tourism can’t remain a one-way street – we can’t keep packing in visitors without consideration for the long-term environmental impact.

If a small charge can help to significantly offset that and better preserve the charms of Auld Reekie for generations to come, then I’m all for it.



It’s still an uncertain time for businesses and the economy in terms of Brexit but it is great to hear that Scotland’s unemployment rate has actually fallen despite the many challenges we are facing.

The economy is still in turmoil with the confusion around Brexit plans but knowing that Scotland is coping is excellent news.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) announced that unemployment in Scotland has fallen by 14,000 in the months of June to August.

With Christmas looming, these statistics are even more important – people are worried about job security, but in the run-up to December, more opportunities will be available.

The hope is that Scotland continues to hold its own by outperforming other countries within the UK, with Scottish unemployment rates now below the UK average.

One company that’s unsurprisingly at the forefront of Christmas preparations is Amazon which has just released the positive news that it’s creating more jobs across the UK.

Around a thousand ‘highly skilled’ new roles have been created within the company, with 250 of those positions based in its development centre in Edinburgh.

Amazon creating such positions gives the industry a significant boost during these uncertain times.

The goal must now be that others follow Amazon’s lead and continue to believe in the Scottish industry, allowing the next set of statistics to be just as positive, if not more so.



I had to laugh when I heard Kleenex’s announcement that it was ditching its ‘mansize tissues’ after customers had complained about the name.

It seems the world has truly gone mad.

The name has been branded sexist in some quarters, and Kleenex was keen to clamp down on what had been claimed was a manifestation of gender inequality.

The tissues have been titled ‘mansize’ for over 60 years now but Kleenex has finally given in and from now on will be labelled simply ‘extra large’.

Is it just me or have things gone a little too far? Should we now demand that Mothercare becomes Parentcare instead?  

If only people spent their time campaigning on important issues instead of tissues.



It looks like Glasgow’s visitor experience is set to take a hit after it was announced that the much-loved People’s Palace and Winter Gardens at Glasgow Green will close indefinitely.

Glasgow City Council will sadly shut both at the end of this year after structural engineers estimated that it would cost £7million to ensure public safety.

The problem lies within the 120-year-old Winter Gardens, but the People’s Palace requires fire escape access to the Victorian glasshouse which means both visitor attractions need to close.

Locals are not pleased at the decision either, with Glaswegians launching an online petition to stop the closures.

Let’s hope the council figures out a resolution as the museum and gardens will be a real loss to the city.




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