Poll: Edinburgh tourist tax would not '˜deter' 92% of visitors

Tourists say they would not be deterred from visiting Edinburgh if a tourist tax was introduced.

A survey of visitors to the city at the height of the summer tourist season found 92 per cent would still come to the Capital if they faced a levy of £1 per room per night.

And 78 per cent said they would not be put off even if the proposed tax was as high as £4 per night.

A similar survey of residents found 59 per cent backing for a tourist tax.

The findings come as council leader Adam McVey is due to argue the case in favour of the tax before the Scottish Parliament’s culture and tourism committee at Holyrood today.

Edinburgh is urging the Scottish Government to give councils the power to levy a tourist tax and is drawing up a detailed scheme which would be ready to introduce.

Cllr McVey said today’s figures reinforced the council’s thinking and added weight to evidence from around the world that a tourist tax did not drive visitors away.

The independent survey, commissioned by Marketing Edinburgh and carried out by market research company Progressive in July an August, interviewed 519 residents – evenly split between those living in and around the city centre and those living in other parts of the city – and 561 paying overnight visitors – 10 per cent from Scotland, 35 per cent from the rest of the UK and 56 per cent from overseas, broadly reflecting actual visitor numbers.

A survey has revealed 93 per cent of visitors would still come to Edinburgh if a tourist tax was introduced. Picture: Ian Georgeson

Asked to indicate their support for the tax on a scale of one to ten, 25 per cent of residents were “totally in favour” while only 12 per cent were “totally against”.

When asked about drawbacks, 45 per cent of residents said they were concerned about putting tourists off. But supporters will say that has been answered by the finding that 78 per cent of visitors said they would not be deterred.

Another 13 per cent felt residents would not benefit from the money or that the money would not be wisely spent. But 27 per cent said there would be no drawbacks.

Visitors were split 47 per cent in favour and 47 per cent against a tourist tax, with those from Scotland and the UK more likely to oppose the idea and those from overseas more likely to be in favour.

Both visitors and residents said any tax should be on accommodation rather than on other services such as taxis or restaurants.

And among both groups, a flat rate tax per room was favoured over making the tax a percentage of the total bill or a per-person rate.

Asked how revenue from a tourist tax should be spent, 54 per cent of visitors and 28 per cent of residents said improving public areas where there are many tourists; 28 per cent of residents said roads; and 12 per cent of visitors and 8 per cent of residents said festivals and events.

Cllr McVey said: “This evidence dispels many of the fears voiced by some in the industry and is a valuable contribution to the debate.

“It is important also to highlight the strong support amongst our residents for the proposals. Understandably, they believe it is entirely fair to expect tourists to contribute to the city maintenance, to cultural and tourist investments, and to marketing the city so it remains globally attractive”.

John Donnelly, chief executive of Marketing Edinburgh, said: “We need to find a solution that enables sustainable investment in Edinburgh’s growing tourism industry while supporting the council to manage the consequences of that success.

“This insight demonstrates that visitors would not be put off coming to Edinburgh, and indeed the majority of residents support [a tax] so long as it isn’t to the detriment of tourism within the city.”