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Consultation on potential tourist tax in the Highlands generates huge response

By Val Sweeney

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Highland Council convener Bill Lobban.
Highland Council convener Bill Lobban.

A PUBLIC consultation by Highland Council on the possibility of introducing a tourist tax has attracted more than 6500 responses.

Council convener Councillor Bill Lobban said it was the highest number of responses to any online consultation run by the council.

"Not only is this a brilliant response in terms of volume, it gives a strong geographical spread of responses across the Highlands and represents the views of a great range of different businesses, residents and visitors," he said.

"I would like to thank everyone who took the time to contribute to the consultation and pass on their views and suggestions.

“The consultation was shaped by lots of research and engagement with the public and tourism industry before it was launched and I would also like to thank all those involved in helping inform this and ensuring we asked the right questions.

"It was not an exercise just to gather information on people’s support or opposition. It also gave those taking part lots of opportunity to help us shape what an optimal levy for Highland might look like, were it to be implemented.

“Highland welcomes over six million visitors a year, including day visitors and cruise passengers.

"Depending on how a scheme was designed, a Highland Transient Visitor Levy could generate between £5 and £10 million each year to invest in the region.”

The consultation was launched on August 15 following detailed research into schemes in other regions and countries and meetings with tourism industry representatives across the region.

It included an online questionnaire aimed at residents and tourism businesses but also open to visitors. It attracted 5622 responses.

The council also commissioned a face-to-face visitor consultation, conducted by the Moffat Centre for Travel and Tourism at Glasgow Caledonian University, which delivered 950 targeted face-to-face questionnaires with visitors at locations across Highland.

The council also welcomed written submissions from Community Councils and from national and local tourism-related organisations.

At today’s environment, development and infrastructure committee meeting, members were told the responses were being collated and the findings would be reported to a future meeting of the full council.

Committee chairman, Councillor Allan Henderson, said: “Tourism is our most important and valuable industry, worth over £1.2 billion per annum to the Highland economy.

"We have seen significant increases in visitor numbers in recent years and we aim to continue to build on these successful trends.

"However to do this we need to invest in this highly competitive sector and manage the effects large numbers are having on the region’s services, resources and infrastructure.

“The Scottish Government has committed to introducing legislation by 2021 that would allow local authorities in Scotland to implement a Transient Visitor Levy.

"Highland Council will use the information gathered through its consultation and wider research to feed into the government’s national consultation which runs until December. "We need to ensure what is unique and special about tourism in Highland, and what the region needs to see this sector grow and flourish over the years to come, are fully represented at a national level.”

Anyone who missed the opportunity to take part in the on-line consultation can contribute directly to the Scottish Government’s national consultation at https://consult.gov.scot/local-government-and-communities/visitor-levy/

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