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News & Press: General

UKHospitality and hotel sector leaders write to Scottish Government over damaging tourist tax

06 December 2019   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Pernille Thomsen
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Leaders of major hotel and hospitality groups have written to Derek Mackay MSP, Scottish Finance Secretary, voicing strong opposition to Scottish Government plans for a tourist tax and warning of its damaging impact to the visitor economy. The letter (full text and signatories below) has been co-ordinated by UKHospitality, the single, authoritative voice for the hospitality sector.


The Scottish Government is currently consulting on the principles of a Transient Visitor Levy - also know more commonly as a tourist tax - that could be implemented by local authorities.

Last week, UKHospitality published analysis that demonstrates the economic and employment cost of a tourist tax in Scotland. The analysis finds that if a tax was introduced it will lead to a hit to the Scottish economy of over £200 million and the loss of nearly 6,000 jobs. The pain would be felt all across Scotland, but the analysis shows the hardest-hit areas are Edinburgh, Glasgow and the Highlands. The tax will also increase the costs of domestic tourism for Scots and deter visitors from overseas.


Kate Nicholls, CEO of UKHospitality, said: “The senior-level signatories of this letter demonstrate the level of concern about how this ill-thought through proposal will damage Scotland’s reputation as a world-class tourism destination, increase costs and put thousands of jobs at risk. The hospitality sector is already over-taxed, with sky-high business rates and one of the highest VAT rates in Europe. It is time that this proposal was shelved and for the Scottish Government to discuss with business how we can secure a bright and sustainable future for Scottish business.”


Full text of the letter to Derek Mackay


To: Derek Mackay, Finance Secretary


Fiona Hyslop, Cabinet Secretary for Culture, Tourism and External Affairs

Kate Forbes, Minister for Public Finance and Digital Economy

Dear Finance Secretary,

We strongly urge the Government to reconsider the introduction of a ‘Transient Visitor Levy’ or Tourist Tax, which has the potential to damage Scotland’s visitor economy, impose additional costs on Scottish accommodation businesses and make them less competitive with other European destinations. It will overburden both families travelling within Scotland and inbound visitors from other parts of the UK and Europe alike.

Accommodation businesses generate £2.7bn in turnover, supports 50,000 jobs and already contributes some £720m annually in tax. A tourist tax does not meet standards for fair taxation as it picks out just one sector for punitive cost increases. It imposes a substantial bureaucratic burden and cost upon Scottish hotels and accommodation businesses that will need to change systems and procedures dictated by third parties.

Such a tax will make Scotland less competitive with rival tourism nations across Europe - all of which enjoy lower VAT on hospitality. It provides no clear answer on how to tax rooms and properties listed on online rental company platforms and cruise ship arrivals. The tax will bypass day visitors (95% of Scottish tourism visits), whose local environmental impacts are significant, yet who spend significantly less than overnight visitors in our high streets’ shops and in hospitality venues. Crucially, it will be an added burden on Scottish families who holiday domestically; incentivising them to cross the border to England or to fly abroad, hitting local businesses.

If the Scottish Government truly wishes to ensure that Scotland retains its reputation as an open, warm and competitive destination, this tax measure is incompatible with that.  The plans for this tax should be stopped to ensure the future competitiveness of Scottish tourism.

Yours sincerely,

Kate Nicholls, CEO, UKHospitality

Thomas Dubaere, COO Northern Europe, Accor

Simon Jones, Managing Director, Premier Inn and Restaurants UK, Whitbread

Rob Paterson, CEO, Best Western Hotels

Frank Whitaker, Vice-Chair, Aberdeen City & Shire Hotel Association

Nicola Taylor, CEO, Chardon Hotels

Stephen Leckie, CEO, Crieff Hydro Family of Hotels

Emmanual Moine, General Manager, The Glen Mhor Hotel and Apartments, Chair of Inverness Hotel Association

Janice Fisher, General Manager, Novotel Glasgow | Ibis Glasgow City Centre, Chair of Greater Glasgow Hotel Association

Karan Khanna, MD of UK & Ireland, IHG

Gavin Ellis, Proprietor, Knockomie Hotel, Forres

Calum Ross, Proprietor, Loch Melfort Hotel, Argyll and Chair of UKH, Scotland

Neil Ellis, Group Operations Director, Place Hotels, Chair of Edinburgh Hotels Association

Helen McBride, General Manager, Old Course Hotel, Golf Resort & Spa

Russell Imrie, Managing Director, Queensferry Hotels and Vice-Chair UKH, Scotland



Notes to Editors

For media enquiries please contact:

Chris Banks  (020 7404 7744) 
Fleet Street Communications  (020 3567 5800)


About UKHospitality

  • UKHospitality is the new trade body representing the UK’s hospitality sector, established following a merger approved in February 2018 between the Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers (ALMR) and the British Hospitality Association (BHA)
  • UKHospitality is the authoritative voice for over 700 companies, operating around 65,000 venues in a sector that employs 3.2 million people
  • The body speaks on behalf of a wide range of leisure and ‘out-of-home’ businesses, from FTSE 100 enterprises to niche groups and independent single-site operators
  • For the first time, the sector has a single voice bringing together businesses from all aspects of hospitality; coffee shops, hotels, serviced apartments, pubs, restaurants, leisure parks, nightclubs, contract caterers, entertainment, stadia and visitor attractions
  • Engaging with government, the media and the public, UKHospitality works to develop a robust case on how to unlock the industry’s full potential as the biggest engine for growth in the economy and ensure that the industry’s needs are effectively represented
  • The sector creates £130bn in economic activity and generates £39bn of tax for the Exchequer, funding vital services
  • Hospitality represents 10% of UK employment, 6% of businesses and 5% of GDP
  • Hospitality is the 3rd largest private sector employer in the UK; double the size of financial services and bigger than automotive, pharmaceuticals and aerospace combined
  • Member benefits include free advice and expert guidance on regulation, finance and health and safety as well as savings on services from carefully selected business partners.

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