Edinburgh is one of the most visited cities in the UK. Like so many other popular destinations, it experiences severe overcrowding during busy times, such as the festive season and at Hogmanay. Apart from an increase in road traffic and pollution it also threatens the fragile areas of the medieval Old Town.
Now, Edinburgh now becomes the latest city to introduce a tourist tax in a bid to lessen the impacts of mass tourism. Much like Barcelona, Venice and Paris, the city’s residents have long been threatened with rising prices and costs, turning Edinburgh into what author Alexander McCall Smith once called “a vulgar wasteland of tourist shops, big hotels, and nothing much else.”
The new tax will be levied on all accommodation types, except campsites, and it will cost £2 per night. Though it won’t come into effect until next year when the Scottish Parliament passes the legislation, it is expected to raise up to £14.6 million a year for the city.
Edinburgh tourist tax will be the first in the UK
The new Edinburgh tourist tax will go a long way towards improving local infrastructure and public services which come under the strain of over four million visitors each year. While many locals are in favour of the upcoming tax, critics fear that it will put people off of visiting Edinburgh.
According to David Weston, chairman of the Bed & Breakfast Association, “£2 may not be much if you’re the Balmoral and charging £400 a night, but it is if you’re a small B&B charging £60. We are already subject to the highest taxes on tourism of all of our competitors [other European cities]. There is 20 per cent VAT, which is amongst the highest in Europe, plus alcohol duty and passenger duty – to add another tax will damage the industry.”
Also Read: What’s up with mass tourism?
However, the City of Edinburgh Council disagrees, believing that it won’t threaten the industry. The move also follows a report by the Arts Council England, which called for a “UK-wide review of the merits of a tourist levy,” and said that “the debate about a tourist tax, which is currently underway in Scotland, should be extended across the whole UK”. Other cities, such as York and Bath, are also considering implementing a tourist tax as a means to increase funds for investment in local culture and infrastructure.