TVL: A chance to sustain Edinburgh's success

Council Leader Adam McVey makes a case for a Transient Visitor Levy (TVL) in Edinburgh in today's Scotsman.

Every year, we welcome over four and a half million visitors to our city centre. Our tourist economy has become an incredibly successful part of the city, generating tens of thousands of jobs and bringing significant investment to the Capital.

Edinburgh’s visitors spend around £1.8bn annually and this is expected to continue to grow, while Edinburgh’s hotels have the highest average occupancy rate in the UK, at 83.7%.

We are proud to be a destination for so many taking advantage of what our city has to offer, but we urgently need a way of reinvesting in Edinburgh’s infrastructure and funding ways of improving our services, so that we address the impact this heavy footfall has on our streets and in our communities. A Transient Visitor Levy (TVL) is the best and fairest way to do that.adam mcvey

Our latest research, published last week, is the largest consultation undertaken to date on views around a TVL in Edinburgh with over 2,500+ people taking part and the truth is this - the overwhelming majority of respondents are strongly supportive. In fact, 91% of residents, 77% of businesses, 67% of tourist attractions and 51% of accommodation providers who responded want a TVL.

It amazes me that no city in the UK has yet imposed a tourism levy while Austria, Croatia, Czech Republic, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Netherlands, Portugal, and Spain are all on the list of European countries with charges. Levies which are common, accepted, successful, and don’t put visitors off.

A new tax in Edinburgh would be no higher than those charged by these cities. Our proposals suggest a £2 charge, or 2% of the accommodation cost, to be paid per night, per tourist staying overnight in Edinburgh. A small price to pay to visit a Capital city and directly contribute towards its ongoing success.

Despite a small number of loud voices suggesting otherwise, we do not believe a fair, small levy would ‘harm’ Edinburgh’s highly successful tourism industry or economy. Far from it. It will provide the investment required to sustain our success. 72% of our residents, businesses, tourist attractions and accommodation agree and told us they thought a £2/2% fee feels about right in our recent consultation.

Tourists consider a destination’s overall appeal and quality of the tourist experience alongside price. With Edinburgh’s packed events and festivals calendar, unique heritage appeal, free museums and art galleries and wealth of outdoor attractions, we know that the city would remain internationally competitive and a “must see” for many.

The real risk is that without a TVL, the city might struggle to continue to develop, invest in and manage the impacts of tourism in the future. And, as Edinburgh remains the gateway to experience tourism in other parts of Scotland, there is a very real risk that this would negatively impact the whole of the country.

It is clear from our consultation and from independent research by the Chamber of Commerce and Marketing Edinburgh that there is widespread backing for a TVL. Importantly, we know that there is a mix of views from industry. Most accommodation providers in our consultation – represented from all sectors – told us that they support it and this is mirrored in the Chamber of Commerce survey in terms of hospitality businesses. Even a survey by the Federation of Small Business, which showed most of their members opposing our plans, registered support of about 25%.

Our consultation has been one of the biggest conducted on this issue and was well-publicised and promoted across the Capital. It had one of the strongest response rates to a public consultation that we have seen. If there are accommodation providers that felt a TVL was a risk to our City’s tourist economy, then I’m sure they would have made their voices heard.  51% of those from the industry who got involved strongly support this proposal and we shouldn’t ignore their voice.

This city needs a TVL to continue to invest in and manage tourism to the benefit of everyone including our visitors. Our residents and businesses believe the time is now to move ahead in the best interests of our Capital City. 

This article originally appeared in the The Scotsman, Thursday 17 January.

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