Councillors to discuss tourism tax

A proposed “tourism tax” risks having a detrimental impact on small businesses, councillors will be warned.

A draft response to the Scottish government’s planned visitor levy will go before members of next week’s development committee.

The Visitor Levy (Scotland) Bill was introduced to the Scottish Parliament on 24th May.

The Bill, as proposed, provides local authorities with discretionary powers to introduce a scheme requiring the payment of a levy on overnight accommodation used by visitors.

The Bill is currently at Stage 1 at Holyrood, where committees examine the Bill and gather views.

Visitor spend in Shetland grew from £23 million in 2017 to £36 million just two years later.

That came from over 80,000 visits, incorporating leisure, business and “VFR” (visiting friends and relatives) visitors.

The tourism economy is said to have experienced a strong recovery from Covid-19, despite some continuing difficulties. A follow-up survey is planned for 2024.

The response going before councillors next Wednesday highlights a “high degree” of variation across the country in terms of scale and impacts.

“The scale of the visitor economy in Shetland is limited by transport capacity on air and freight links,” it states.

“The potential for negative impacts lie in the addition of financial and legislative burdens on small businesses and the local authority due to the requirements of the Bill for collection and enforcement measures.

“The majority of providers are micro-businesses (including volunteer-run social enterprises in the case of many campsites, caravan parks and marinas), and regulation is often cited as one of the factors which make trading conditions difficult for small enterprises.”

It comes after proposals for a tourism levy were welcomed by Green MSP Ariane Burgess, who said the idea would support the SIC by providing additional funds and support services.

However, her comments met with a backlash from many opposed to the proposals.


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