Tourist tax plans paying a visit to help promote city

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A NEW tourist tax which would see businesses such as hotels and restaurants contribute to promoting the city is set to be investigated.

Council chiefs want to explore the idea of creating a “business improvement district” (BID) for the city’s tourism industry, with businesses ranging from hotels to the airport making contributions to boost the sector.

The move comes after the idea of a “bed tax” had to be abandoned when the Scottish Government said it would not bring in the necessary legislation to allow councils to impose a charge on visitors.

A report to the city council’s policy and strategy committee next week says the private sector would have to be in favour of the BID plan, but recommends officials investigate the potential for such a scheme.

The council’s economic development leader Tom Buchanan said there was a “shared responsibility” to maintain Edinburgh’s status as a leading tourism destination.

There was cross-party council support for a bed tax – or “transient visitor levy” – but the report to the committee confirms the council has no power to introduce it and Scottish Government ministers have ruled out creating such a power.

The report by Dave Anderson, director of city development, says: “In order for a tourism BID to be potentially introduced in Edinburgh, work would need to be undertaken on potential uses of funds and costs to contributing businesses.

“It is recommended that initial work is progressed. The private sector would need to be actively involved in proposals, be convinced of the merits of a scheme and vote in favour of it.”

The Edinburgh Hotels Association has said it would be interested in seeing how a BID would work, but suggested it would need to include restaurants, the airport and taxi drivers.

Councillor Buchanan said: “We would be neglecting the future of Edinburgh not to keep talking about ways to ensure our tourism industry remains healthy. We already put a lot of effort into promoting Edinburgh but there is always more to do.

“The businesses and jobs that directly depend on tourism would clearly suffer if we lost visitors to other cities. That’s why we have looked at the visitor levy and other options, even if it seems there is little scope to pursue those at the moment.

“However, the tourism BID may be feasible and we’ll consider that once we have more information. One way or another, everyone in Edinburgh benefits from us being a high-profile international city, so it’s a shared responsibility for us to maintain that status.”