• STV
  • MySTV

Tourist tax: Will Edinburgh plan drive away visitors?

STV News was in Barcelona to see how a similar levy impacted on the local economy.

On first glance, there might not seem to be that much in common between Barcelona and Edinburgh.

But one thing the Scottish and Catalan capitals share is that they are both highly sought-after European tourist destinations.

Each year, they receive millions of visitors - around ten times more than their cities' respective populations.

Tourists reportedly generate around £1.3bn annually for Edinburgh's local economy and help support 30,000 jobs.

As the council has unveiled plans to bring in a tourism tax, questions have arisen about the potential effect on visitor numbers, and whether the move would hit the city in the pocket.

STV News took a trip to Barcelona to find out what sort of impact a similar levy, introduced in 2012, had on the city.

https://stv.tv/news/east-central/1415343-local-businesses-oppose-plans-for-edinburgh-tourism-tax/ | default

Barcelona is a city with 1.6 million inhabitants and receives around 15 million tourists every year.

Including those who only stay overnight, this figure rises to around 28 million people.

To try and manage this level of tourism, maximise its benefits and reduce its negative impact for locals, officials imposed a €2.50 nightly charge on all tourist accommodation - from five-star hotels to apartments to camper vans.

"It is an income that the city gets and a way for citizens to see that tourism also benefits them," explained Agustí Colom, councillor for tourism, commerce and markets in Barcelona.

"With the tax, we don't only fund services connected to tourism, but also community projects, for instance, musical festivals and the restoration of cultural heritage.

"It's a way that the citizen sees that tourism can benefit them."

In Edinburgh, similar proposals for a tourism levy have been with fierce resistance by firms reliant on the industry, with tycoon Richard Branson also voicing opposition.

A recent survey showed that 76% of local businesses were against the introduction of a levy on tourism, and 73% said they thought it would have a negative impact on the local economy.

They fear that visitor numbers will fall as tourists are "priced out" of the city and go elsewhere.

But in Barcelona, officials and tradespeople tell a different story.

'The tax is a very small amount in comparison to what every tourist spends in the city, so it doesn't affect the arrival of tourists.'
Agustí Colom, Barcelona councillor for tourism

"The tourist tax works," Mr Colom told STV News.

"Since its implementation, tourism hasn't diminished.

"The tax is a very small amount in comparison to what every tourist spends in the city, so it doesn't affect the arrival of tourists."

Manel Casals, director general of the Barcelona hoteliers association, concurs with this assessment.

"We haven't noticed a reduction of the amount of people visiting the city after its implementation," he said.

However, he said the tax had caused hoteliers' profits to suffer.

"If we talk specifically about the hotel industry, we have seen a direct impact on the tax on hoteliers' profits," Mr Casals explained.

"This tax has not represented a price increase for the tourist, but rather a reduction in the hotels profits.

"In other words, the two or three euro that the tourist should be paying, beyond the cost of its room, has actually meant that the hotel has drop the price of the room by this amount, reducing its profits."

Another problem, he told STV, is the rise of "illegal" accommodation which avoids the tax, such as some apartments rented via Airbnb.

The tourism levy has not yet managed to lift the problems for locals associated with large numbers of visitors, such as overcrowding, congestion, and rising house prices.

And for tourists - going by the evidence in Barcelona - it would seem the tax has done little to dissuade them from visiting the city in their droves.

https://stv.tv/news/east-central/1410775-airbnb-to-launch-edinburgh-experiences-campaign/ | default

Download: The STV News app is Scotland's favourite and is available for iPhone from the App store and for Android from Google Play. Download it today and continue to enjoy STV News wherever you are.

One account. All of STV.

This field is required. That doesn't look like a valid e-mail format, please check. That e-mail's already in our system. Please try again.
ShowHide
Forgot password?
This field is required. This must be at least 6 characters long. Did you enter your details correctly?
If you've forgotten your details then use the 'Forgot password?' link.
Need to reset your password?

We'll send a link to reset your password to

We've sent you details on how to reset your password

Please check your email and follow the instructions.

Forgotten your email address?

Have you forgotten the email address that you previously joined with? Don't worry, by emailing enquiries@stv.tv we can help.

One account. All of STV.

This field is required. Please enter at least 2 characters
This field is required. Please enter at least 2 characters
This must be at least 6 characters long.
ShowHide
This field is required. This must be at least 6 characters long.
You must be over 16 to join STV.
This field is required. This doesn't appear to be a valid date
We need this to check that you live in an STV region.
This field is required. This doesn't appear to be a valid postcode
Would you like us to email you about our great shows and services from time to time?
We'll only send emails we think you'll like (see example) based on information you have supplied and shows you have watched on STV Player. For details on emails and advertising, see our STV & You page.
Would you like to receive emails from the Scottish Children's Lottery about draws, instant games and competitions?
We support the Scottish Children's Lottery (SCL), which is managed by our colleagues at STV ELM Ltd. You can find out more about the SCL on it's website, including its Privacy Policy.

By continuing you agree to our Terms of Use, and understand our Privacy and Cookie Policies.

Upload Profile Picture

Please make sure your image is under 2mb in size and a valid JPG, PNG or GIF.

Are you sure?

Unfortunately, you'll be unable to access our premium content. We’ll be sorry to see you go, but if you change your mind you can rejoin us at any time.

Please verify your STV account

Please verify your STV account using the email we sent you. If you have lost the email, we can send you another one, just click the button below.

Thanks

We've sent you a new verification email.
Please check your email and follow the instructions to verify your account.

Welcome to STV
Thanks for joining us.

Oops!

Sorry, you must be at least 12 years old to place a vote for your Real Hero.

Please review our Voting Terms of Use for more information.

Oops!

Sorry! It seems that you are using a browser that is incompatible with our voting service.

To register your vote please copy the below URL in to your regular mobile browser. We recommend Google Chrome, or Safari.

http://shows.stv.tv/real-heroes/voting

Oops!

Sorry, you seem to have already voted in this category.

Thanks for voting

Now share your vote with friends on your social network

Share on twitter Share on facebook

Cast your vote

Please register or sign in to continue.

Cast your vote

This field is required. This doesn't appear to be a valid date

Cast your vote

Please fill out this form to cast your vote. As you are under 16 years old you will not create an STV account. Why do we need these details?

This field is required. Please enter at least 2 characters
This field is required. Please enter at least 2 characters
This field is required. That doesn't look like a valid e-mail format, please check.
Location This field is required.
Parental Consent This field is required.

That's you. All that's left is to click the 'Submit Vote' button below. By doing so, you confirm that you and your parent or guardian have read and accept our Voting Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Cookie policy, and that the details you have entered are correct. We'll look after them as carefully as if they were our own.