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Highland Council tourist tax consultation under way

By Neil MacPhail

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A MAJOR consultation will be launched today over whether a controversial tourist tax should be introduced in the north.

A report to Highland Council’s environment, development and infrastructure committee, which also meets today, details how recent years have been bumper ones for tourism, with visitors generating more than £1 billion a year for the Highland economy.

Early indications from visitor attractions suggest similarly high levels of business for this year compared to 2018, despite a poor winter sports season.

But while the economic boost has been welcomed, increased visitor numbers have also placed additional pressures on council budgets, particularly for roads and parking.

The council agreed last December to undertake a public consultation on a visitor tax, and a series of six small-scale “pre-consultation” events have been held across the Highlands to gather initial feedback from the tourist industry.

The Moffat Centre at Glasgow Caledonian University has been taken on by the council to carry out survey work with visitors from now until early October at a number of locations across the Highlands.

A wider consultation process will also capture the views of Highland residents and those in the tourist industry through an online survey. This will also run until October, and a final report will be presented to the council on December 12.

Earlier this year Edinburgh councillors voted overwhelmingly in favour of introducing a tourist tax, with proposals including a £2 per night charge to be added to the price of any room for the first week of a stay.

It would apply to all accommodation including Airbnb-style short-term lets and it is estimated it could raise between £11.6 million and £14.6 million per year for the Scottish capital.

It cannot be imposed until the Scottish Government passes enabling legislation, which could take place next year.

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