HUNDREDS of residents and visitors will be asked their views on introducing a tourist tax in Edinburgh as part of an official survey to be launched tomorrow.
The Capital’s SNP-Labour administration wants to bring in the controversial levy, which is common elsewhere in Europe, to help fund much-needed investment in the city.
But the idea is opposed by leaders of the hospitality industry and so far the Scottish Government has been unwilling to back the move.
Now promotion body Marketing Edinburgh has commissioned a survey to find out the views of both residents and tourists. Market research company Progressive will question 500 locals and 500 visitors over the peak summer period and a further 300 visitors in October.
Supporters hope the survey will show residents would welcome a new source of revenue for the Capital and tourists say the levy would not deter them from coming. A charge of £1 per person per night would raise an estimated £11.5 million a year.
Although an accommodation levy is the most-talked about option, the survey also asks about a charge on other services like restaurants, bars and taxis.
Researchers will conduct some interviews with residents in their homes, but most will involve stopping people in the street.
Half of the 500 locals will come from the areas most popular with tourists and the other half from other parts of the city.
Visitors will be approached to take part in the survey at five city centre locations – the Royal Mile, Princes Street Gardens, St Andrew Square, George Street and Cowgate/Grassmarket.
And the researchers will return to quiz another 300 visitors in October to see whether there is a difference of views between those coming to the Capital during the peak tourist season when prices are at their highest and those visiting in the cheaper off-peak season.
The tourists selected to take part in the survey will reflect the nationality statistics on overnight visitors to Edinburgh – ten per cent from Scotland, 35 per cent from the rest of the UK, 34 per cent from Europe, 14 per cent from North America and seven per cent from the rest of the world.
There is also ongoing dialogue between the city council and the hotel operators and tourism sector.
Earlier this month council leader Adam McVey was slapped down by culture secretary Fiona Hyslop for suggesting the tourist tax could be ready to implement in a year or so.
Today he said: “The council undertook in-depth research earlier this year that concluded it would not have an adverse effect on tourists visiting Edinburgh. This next stage involves considered, thoughtful and professional engagement with our partners in the tourism and hotel sectors, the people of Edinburgh and tourists who would ultimately pay the levy.”
Marketing Edinburgh chief executive John Donnelly said: “The biggest challenge to Edinburgh and its tourism industry right now is global competition and with a requirement for future investment in a challenging financial climate, we need a clear, balanced and thoughtful debate on where that funding comes from. Nothing should be off the table at this stage and we believe a consultation with tourism businesses and organisations, considering the merits and disadvantages of every option, is the next step in determining the best way to move forward.
“Crucial to this conversation are the views of both residents and visitors, which is why we have commissioned an independent and robust research programme to seek their feedback.”