Councils Empowered to Raise Tourism Money
A Bill to enable councils to invest more in local tourism facilities and services through a levy on overnight stays has been published.
If passed by the Scottish Parliament, the Visitor Levy (Scotland) Bill will give councils the power to apply a levy on stays in overnight accommodation based on a percentage of the accommodation cost. All money raised would have to be reinvested locally in facilities and services substantially for or used by visitors, enhancing the tourist experience and benefitting local communities and their economies.
Under the plans, councils would be required to consult communities, businesses and tourism organisations before putting a visitor levy in place. They would also have to consult on how any revenue raised should be spent.
The proposals follow public consultation and form part of the New Deal for Local Government which gives councils greater financial flexibility and strengthens local democracy. The Scottish Government has also invited representatives from the tourism industry, COSLA and other partners to join an expert group to consider how it could best be implemented if passed.
Councils would be able to apply a visitor levy in all or parts of their area. The levy would be collected by the accommodation providers and remitted to the relevant local authority on a regular basis (the default being quarterly). It applies to almost all types of overnight accommodation within the area where a visitor levy is being applied, including hotels, self-catering accommodation, and campsites.
Taxes on overnight tourist stays are common across Europe and in other locations around the world. As of 2023, 21 out of the 27 EU member states charge occupancy taxes. Some cities and regions (such as Berlin) use the levy as a way to increase general revenues while others (such as Nice and the Balearic Islands) ring-fence all or part of the revenues to fund specific projects.
The expert advisory group, facilitated by VisitScotland, will bring together tourism industry bodes and local government to discuss how best any visitor levy can be implemented and to develop national guidance for local authorities.