In the Evening News on January 1 space was given to the Edinburgh Hotels Association to make the case against the Scottish Government giving our Capital the right to set a hotel tax. This is a tax of around one per cent on larger hotels to help the city deal with the cuts being imposed by the SNP/Tory governments – it would raise £10m to £20m per year.
The key argument against the hotel tax is that it would discourage tourists from visiting Edinburgh as an extra £1.50 on a £150 room would simply be too much. The Edinburgh Hotels Association suggest that it would send the message that tourists are “only welcome in Edinburgh at a premium”.
Lo and behold, the next day in the News we find that hotel prices soared by 344 per cent in the week running up to Hogmanay, with average prices hitting £260! Whilst the Edinburgh Hotels Association has much to say about paying a modest levy to improve our Capital for tourists and residents alike, they appear remarkably quiet when it comes to profiteering.
Although there are many great opportunities, let’s not forget that the tourism industry in Edinburgh offers some of the worst conditions and pay. I spoke to a young worker on a zero hours contract who was earning just £7.05 per hour over the festive period, and on one occasion had her shift cancelled via a text message whilst on the bus to work. This is outrageous.
The Edinburgh Hotels Association’s vision for Edinburgh becomes clear when they raise the UK’s position in the World Economic Forum’s Price Competitiveness Index – we are 135 out of 136 countries. Forget the fact that the UK is fifth for overall Travel & Tourism Competitiveness, they want to focus on price (not quality) – this is a league table topped by Iran and Yemen, with the only western European nations in the top 100 being Portugal (72) and Luxemburg (96). The UK is in the bottom 20 beside France, Ireland and many other European nations.
My advice to the Edinburgh Hotels Association would be to set their sights higher, make the industry more competitive by rewarding staff better, and work with the city to make it more attractive to tourists.
Councillor Scott Arthur, City Chambers, Edinburgh