Richard Branson warns Edinburgh that introducing tourist tax will drive visitors away

Branson says any tax would have to 'support the tourism industry'

Ronan J. O'Shea
Wednesday 23 May 2018 11:33 BST
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Branson, whose wife is from Edinburgh, opposes the introduction of a tourist tax
Branson, whose wife is from Edinburgh, opposes the introduction of a tourist tax

Virgin boss Richard Branson has warned against a proposed levy on tourists in Edinburgh, saying that it risks driving tourists away.

As reported in The Scotsman, the entrepreneur believes a tax on tourists could dissuade them from visiting the city, putting the Scottish capital’s tourism industry at risk.

Branson was speaking at the opening of his new Virgin Hotels property in Edinburgh’s Old Town.

Speaking about his opposition to the move, Branson said: “There is a problem with any tax where an individual city is singled out. The government would have to watch it very carefully.

“There is a danger that if it is done in one city [Edinburgh] you could have everyone going to Glasgow. If you’re going to do it, it would be better if it was done nationwide.

“It would also have to genuinely support the tourism industry and not just disappear into a general pot.”

A controversial property in the city’s historic Old Town, Branson promised his first Virgin Hotel in the UK would respect Edinburgh’s heritage but insisted a levy on tourists could pose a “serious danger” if imposed in isolation.

Earlier this year, the council proposal a tourist tax, intended to raise £15m, in order to improve infrastructure, in addition to making tourism sustainable and supporting the city’s festivals.

More than four million tourists visited Edinburgh in 2017 (Getty Images/iStockphoto)

A report entitled Managing Our Festival City highlighted issues caused by the influx of visitors, particularly during festival season, including “pavement crowding, waste management, and noise issues”.

A tourism tax in Edinburgh would be the first of its kind in the UK, although authorities in London have considered a similar scheme.

Such taxes are commonplace in other European cities and countries, including tourism hotspots Paris and Berlin, Croatia, which operates a Sojourn Tax on accommodation, and many locations across Italy, where a Tassa di soggiorno tax varies from city to city.

Edinburgh received 4.1 million tourists in 2017, with 67 per cent of overseas visitors to the Scottish capital travelling there on holiday.

Branson’s comments come in the wake of the Cockburn Association’s call for an “immediate moratorium” on new hotel schemes in Edinburgh’s historic city centre.

The heritage association argues that the Old town is being put “seriously at risk” and argues for a full assessment of the impact of the tourism industry to be carried out before any more hotel schemes are approved.

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