IF you take a weekend break to nearly any city in mainland Europe, you’ll pay a tourist tax.
You probably won’t really notice it – it adds about £2.50 per person to a hotel room in Paris – but the sheer volume of people paying it can create millions for local economies.
It goes without saying that it’s particularly popular in cities where there are lots of tourists, ensuring money can be reinvested to ensure the streets are kept clean and visitors are left with a great impression during their holiday.
That means they’re more likely to encourage their friends to visit or come back again; which in turn benefits local businesses such as restaurants, souvenir shops and museums; which in turn generates more revenue for authorities to invest in services for residents such as schools and hospitals.
It’s a win-win situation, and it’s absolutely ridiculous that cities in Scotland cannot yet introduce tourism taxes. Edinburgh is the jewel in Scotland’s crown for the tourism industry, and the city council has just voted in principle to support the idea. It could generate around £29million a year.
When I was Scottish Labour leader we put the idea of a tourism tax in our manifesto, so I’m glad that other parties are now onboard as well – I hope the SNP government soon gives the green light.
Some communities in Scotland are firmly against the idea, and that’s fine. This is about local decision-making and it shouldn’t be forced upon councils.
But here in Edinburgh there is a clear political will to make this happen, with only the Tories wanting to prevent our city from becoming an even better place to live and visit.