Tourism is a critical source of income for many countries but for Scotland in particular, it is a major source of revenue. Yet a substantial part of the money made from tourism does not go to the local council or benefit the whole population. Instead, the money is going into the hands of accommodation providers, cafes, restaurants and retail outlets. The government has to pay to repair and build new roads and bridges, maintain schools and hospitals and keep free museums, libraries and art galleries open, not to mention parks, footpaths and cycleways. So, who pays? Local people pay council tax to give the government money to help finance these local amenities. But we constantly hear that they do not have enough money for all the facilities and services that we expect. Since visitors benefit from all these services, is it not logical to suggest that they contribute too?
Councilors in Edinburgh have voted in favor of a tourist tax. If it comes into being, (it could take up to a year for the proposal to pass through parliament) Edinburgh will be the first place in Scotland to have such a tax. Other countries such as The Netherlands, Spain, Greece and Germany have successfully had a tourist tax for a while. So, should Scotland follow in their footsteps? Amsterdam, for instance, has quite a high tourist tax: in the center, the cost can be up to £10 added to the hotel bill. This seems like a great deal of money but in reality, staying seven nights would only be £1.40 each day. This sum equates to a cup of coffee or a sticky bun, which no holidaymaker begrudges. When tourists stay in hotels or B&Bs they use hot water for showers and baths, heating for their room, the Internet and electricity for the television/ lights. But is that all covered for by their hotel bills at the end of their stay? Most likely not and the hotel or B&B has to find an extra source of money for the end of month bills. Not all tourists, but some definitely try to abuse these amenities by spending longer in the hot shower than they would at home and also extra rolls and cold meat at breakfast for lunch as they think they can just take it because it’s not them who has to pay for the extra things at the end of the day; they just expect that it's all included in the price they pay for the room. So, if tourists paid a little bit extra this money could go into the community and aid the hotel/B&B owners.
On the other hand, tourists may be put off by paying a tourist tax. They already pay for travel and hotel plus daily extra snacks and coffees and also a small souvenir to remember their holiday, so they may think they are already paying enough. Why should they pay anymore? Hotels trade group UK Hospitality has warned that a transient visitor levy – or tourist tax – could cost the Scottish economy £175 million. Highland hotelier Sheena Fleming, owner of the Gun Lodge Hotel in Ardersier said: “I am surprised and disappointed that this could be a possibility. I feel that customers already pay a premium to come up to the Highlands so why would we want to charge more? We should be encouraging more tourists not deterring them”. Actually, I do not agree with this opinion. Frankly, if they cannot afford to pay, they should be questioning whether they can afford to be going on holiday at all. Last year 4.26 million visitors stayed 15.63 million nights in Edinburgh. If they all stayed a maximum of seven nights, a tourist tax would raise more than £30 million. Imagine what that would do. That money, Edinburgh says, would be used to increase spending where tourism puts the city’s infrastructure under strain.
Could it be that the real resistance from tourist businesses is that they do not want to bear the extra administration costs nor the increase in paperwork? Bureaucracy is expensive.
In Scotland, all roads are free. There are no toll roads or bridges. Tourists damage the roads just as much as domestic users but we who live here have to pay for road maintenance through council tax. In Sweden, there is a system in place in which tourists travelling on Swedish roads and bridges have to pay a fee, in order that the Swedish government can afford to repair and keep the roads maintained. The roads in Scotland are in some state, especially in the rural highlands it is particularly worse for wear. The council are not willing to keep maintaining these minor roads and so a tourist tax would really help increase income to allow the council to keep the roads safe for tourist routes and locals who live in rural parts of the area.
For centuries, tourists have been flocking 'over the sea to Skye' but locals are exasperated because the island gets too crowded with the influx of cruise ships and visitors with their cars. Locals are also aggravated at the lack of parking and the crowds leading to the destruction of the natural landscape. They are further irritated that tourists and those from the cruise ships spend next to nothing during their ‘lightning trip’ of the island. A Scottish Government spokesman said that £6 million would be invested to help ensure the facilities for tourists are in place. Rodger Booth said: “Even £1 a person, I am sure people wouldn’t complain. It would be put into the island's economy for better toilets, better waste facilities, better parking facilities and better roads”. If you look at other countries that have introduced a tourist tax, visitors there have kept going, it hasn't stopped them. In fact, they know by paying a few pounds extra into the area they will get better facilities and better attractions.
Another huge problem is the North Coast 500, which has had a lot of advertisement recently causing a big influx of tourists coming to travel this route. Although the number of people has caused many facilities including toilets and roads to be unmaintained. For example, roads on this route have deteriorated and are not kept safe. Also, probably the most vital facility available that is a must on a road trip (toilets) is missing most of the way. So, if this route stays busy and keeps going on like this, it is not sustainable and will be very unsafe and will not provide the cleanest facilities tourists will be inclined to stop coming.
We in Scotland can see a problem. There is a suggested solution. We must embrace it. I believe tourism tax is a real benefit and I feel it would not just have an impact on the locals but everyone involved with the country and visiting it. It could increase the national income a lot and help to improve Scotland’s appearance and facilities. Other countries have introduced this and so far it has mostly been positive. If we do introduce it here in Scotland imagine the council tax could be lowered, If the tax were to be brought about maybe the local council tax might be reduced and that would benefit a great number of people. Plus, our roads could be hugely improved with fewer potholes and more dual carriageways. If we really think about the negatives yes people will try to find the drawbacks about it but is it really a bad thing? No, as we wouldn’t have to pay anymore and increase and improve our country's appearance. So why would we make such a fuss over something that is obviously only going to benefit all of us? Can we not just go for it?