Tourism tax could lead to business closures says chairwoman of Visit Moray Speyside
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THE additional financial burden of a tourism tax could "exacerbate" the challenges faced by businesses in Moray and lead to closures, it has been claimed.
Lisa Farley, chairwoman of Visit Moray Speyside (VMS), was responding to support for the tax levy by SNP, Labour, Green and Independent councillors on Moray Council.
She said: "The industry is still grappling with the aftermath of the Covid-19 pandemic and the introduction of the Short Term Let legislation.
"Many businesses are in the process of recovery, and introducing an additional financial burden at this juncture could exacerbate their challenges and potentially lead to closures."
Visit Moray Speyside acts on behalf of more than 400 businesses.
And a survey of its members in October 2022 showed that 75 per cent were "strongly opposed" to the introduction of a tourism tax.
They expressed concerns that it could deter visitors, lead to a decline in bookings and a fall in revenue for businesses and the Moray economy.
Gemma Cruickshank, CEO of VMS, added: "The tourism sector is a vital cornerstone of Moray's economy, generating over 2700 jobs and supporting businesses that are the lifeblood of our communities. Tourism is an industry to protect, nurture and grow.”
He said: "This is another opportunity for local government to take more power. For me this is about having more tools in the box to raise revenue.”
He was supported by SNP colleague Sonya Warren and their motion won through despite opposition from Conservative councillors.
Conservative member Amber Dunbar said: “I think we should be setting an example in Moray and standing up for the tourism sector.”
The tax would see visitors charged a few pounds for each night they stay in local accommodation. As the legislation is still going through the Scottish Parliament, the earliest the levy could be applied is 2026.
And local authorities wanting to introduce it need to carry out a consultation beforehand.
Money raised by the levy would be invested in tourism infrastructure such as toilets, paths and historical buildings.
Depending on the charge set, it’s estimated it could bring in between £190,000 and £1.3 million a year.
VMS says there needs to be extensive consultation with the sector and local communities and it has vowed to support the process by consulting with members to provide the most up to date views, which it will share with Moray Council.
Ms Farley added: "Many businesses are in the process of recovery and introducing an additional financial burden at this juncture could exacerbate their challenges and potentially lead to closures.
“We urge Moray councillors to explore and consult on the introduction of tourism tax before agreeing in principle so that it does not compromise the prosperity of the tourism industry.
"A clear understanding of how the generated income will be utilised is imperative. Collaborative efforts between the council, tourism stakeholders, and businesses can lead to effective and sustainable solutions."