SO now the British Hospitality Association (BHA) has added its voice to the growing debate around a bed tax in Edinburgh. Given it has hoteliers among its members it is perhaps unsurprising that it has come out against it. But its arguments have a bit of a logic gap.
Ufi Ibrahim, chief executive of the BHA, says tourism is everyone’s business and rejects the idea that hotels should be targeted to fill gaps in local authority finance or funding for the arts, culture or tourism marketing. But very few hotels are a destination in their own right. Few tourists plan a trip to Edinburgh so they can marvel at the number of pillows it is possible to cram on a double bed (above the “bed runner”) or enjoy a sumptuous lobby without venturing out in to the streets.
Tourists come to enjoy our marvellous built heritage and our museums, galleries and wonderful festivals, among many other attractions. A lot of those attractions and the infrastructure that allows tourists to get around receive funding from the taxpayer. The marketing of our city to get to the potential tourists receives help from the taxpayer.
Now the city council in particular is faced with making severe cuts in its services (to those taxpayers) because of financial difficulties.
The impact of a bed tax is uncertain, but it would seem unlikely to have a dramatic effect on putting off tourists.
If some of the money from the bed tax goes to promoting tourism in the city, that will attract more tourists and go to counter any impact the tax has. The Airbnb argument has been met and countered by the authorities in Paris by including those establishments in that city’s tourist tax.
By the very arguments of the BHA, hoteliers are not being singled out because if there truly is a ripple effect, as the BHA claims then the other tourism businesses too would pay. The bed tax is a fair way to go.