Council to consult on tourism transient visitor levy
The Highland Council is to carry out a public consultation on the implementation of a transient visitor levy in the New Year.
During the Council’s public engagement activity during November, a strong theme was support for raising income from tourism, including a tourist levy, which could support local infrastructure, as well as the tourism sector itself.
At a meeting of The Highland Council held today (13 December) in Inverness, Members agreed that in addition to the Council submitting its response to the Local Governance Review on tourism taxes - being carried out by the Scottish Government and Cosla – the Council will highlight that it is to carry out its own consultation on the issue of a tourism levy.
Councillors agreed that the public consultation in Highland will be managed and delivered ‘in-house’ and that a Council officer group will work with the Council’s Tourism Working Group to implement the project. Where necessary, an independent facilitator will be engaged to ensure that an impartial response is secured during engagement with stakeholders.
The proposed consultation will commence in early 2019 and be completed in the spring.
Cllr Allan Henderson, Chair of the Council’s Environment, Development and Infrastructure Committee said: “While the Council will be responding to the national consultation it is important that we add to this debate by gathering information that is specific to Highland. To do so, we need to engage with as wide an audience as possible to help decide what and where is unique and special about Highland tourism so that we can make the case for Highland at a national level.”
Convener Bill Lobban said: “We are already hearing in our engagement with the public that people are interested in new opportunities to make the most of tourism economy in the Highlands. A local consultation will help us to gauge the level of support for a tourist levy here, which could provide the means for improving our infrastructure and protecting and enhancing our environment.”
Cllr Maxine Smith, Leader of the Opposition added: “I have been lobbying for this for several years now. I sincerely believe there is a way to raise money that will benefit both local Council services, that are affected by so many tourists, such as potholes, toilets etc., but that will also benefit the tourism sector.
“Anything we make better in the Highlands will be good for all, not just tourists, but if you are visiting an area and it cannot provide you with quality ancillary products, such as sufficient layby’s, toilets, parking sites, waste services then you are less likely to return. If people visit us here and have a first class time, they will tell others and also return another year.
“The industry should not be worried, they are not being asked to pay anything extra, it is only a few £’s from their patrons, which is commonplace in Europe and works well. We could reach a situation in 5-10 years where we have spare monies, which can be set aside specifically for a ”tourism fund” that hoteliers and others could bid into, if they had a good idea. This consultation is about finding out not just what the industry wants, but what our local Highlanders want.
“We all know funding has been cut so we must be pro-active in looking at raising our own funds. The Highlands has a massive tourist industry and this is not going to change simply because some of them are asked to pay a few more £’s each day for their visit.”
The Council will promote in the New Year how and where people can take part in the Council’s transient visitor levy consultation through news releases, the Council’s website and social media and the Council will be in direct contact with industry groups and community councils among other groups.”