Cash-strapped council eye Festival tax

Visitors to the Festival could find their trip to the Capital a little more expensive in future.
Visitors to the Festival could find their trip to the Capital a little more expensive in future.
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FESTIVAL-goers would be hit with a new “ticket tax” under plans set to be investigated by city chiefs.

Council leader Jenny Dawe believes the idea of adding an additional nominal charge to tickets for shows would be supported by the public.

She has also called for the idea of a hotel bed tax – an extra charge of around £1 that would be added to a guest’s bill – to be re-examined with the money raised being ringfenced to improve the city. Today the proposals were branded “insanity” by both Festival promoters and hoteliers.

Councillor Dawe said: “I have heard the argument made for putting a very small percentage on to Festival tickets and that could even be done on a voluntary basis. If people buy online, for example, there could be a box to tick to put in a small percentage. If people know that it will go towards improving venues there is generally no objection.

“Given the public sector is under increasing pressure with reduced budgets and increasing demand, it is worth looking at different ways we can raise money for things like the cultural sector.”

She said that the issue of the hotel bed tax should be re-examined. The council last proposed the idea five years ago but the proposals were dropped after they met with opposition from Holyrood ministers.

Cllr Dawe believes it is possible for a council to impose a statutory charge.

City council officials are now expected to look into how a Festival and bed tax could work but the proposals will struggle to win support.

Artistic director of Assembly Theatre William Burdett-Coutts believes a hotel tax works well in some cities but said Edinburgh room prices were already high so it may put people off.

He said: “I think it is insane if they try to put this on to Fringe venues because there is just not the money for it.

“The Fringe is very fragile and, while people at the council might think that people are making loads of money, it is not actually like that and this would be very dangerous.”

A number of European cities have a statutory bed tax, including Paris, which raises more than £4 million a year that is spent on promoting the city. It is also used in parts of the US, Germany and Austria, where it is deeply unpopular. Italy introduced the tax and then scrapped it.

Colin Paton, chairman of the Edinburgh Hotels Association and chief executive of the Portland Hotels group, said: “This is a knee-jerk reaction to the irresponsible attitude to finance of the SNP in the Scottish Parliament and is just a cash grab. The council does not fill hotels it is the free market capitalist businesses that fill hotels.

“We will resist extremely heavily the hotel sector being the milch cow of tourism.”

He added that work was taking place with tourism body Marketing Edinburgh to find a way of the tourism sector helping to fund its work – and that a possible bed tax could “put the brakes” on these discussions.

mblackley@edinburghnews.com

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