After 10-year debate Edinburgh ditches tourist tax plan

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Plans to introduce a controversial tourist tax in Edinburgh have finally been put to bed, after the local council admitted it wasn’t a viable option.

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Plans to introduce a controversial tourist tax in Edinburgh have finally been put to bed, after the local council admitted it wasn’t a viable option.

The idea for a levy was first suggested 10 years ago, but has always caused disagreements among local business leaders and politicians.

After the last election, the new SNP-Labour council renewed its interest in adding a charge to hotel rooms to help fund festivals and events and projected that the city could earn more than £5 million from the tax.

However, it was forced to accept defeat due to several insurmountable factors, the already-high level of taxation on hotels, the economic downturn forcing prices down and increased competition from other destinations, according to The Scotsman newspaper.

The council says more than £11 million is spent on tourism and infrastructure each year, bringing in around £609 million to the city.

The hotel sector strongly opposed the scheme and previous proposals by Edinburgh Council had also been rejected by Holyrood.

Last December, the council suggested a £1 to £2 per night tax to be added to hotel bills, which had the potential to raise between £5 and £10 million.

But the Edinburgh Hotels Association has called the proposal ‘completely anti-business’, saying it would be ‘bad news for consumers, for business, for employees, for the city and for Scotland.’

The National Tourist board VisitScotland also had its reservations, saying its research had shown value for money was a key consideration among potential visitors.

The council now hopes to go ahead with a voluntary programme to help raise funds for tourist-facing activities and events in the capital.

Edinburgh is not the only city to have considered introducing a tourist tax, Cambridge has also debated the idea in a bid to protect the city from deterioration and invest in the maintenance of its historic buildings.

Cities that have successfully implemented a levy on hotel rooms include Venice, Florence, Vancouver and Las Vegas.

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