Shetland’s tourism industry has reiterated its opposition to the introduction of a local tourism tax.
Shetland Islands Council has said it was not interested in considering the introduction of a visitor levy, but Green MSP for the Highlands and Islands, John Finnie, has now called on the local authority to think again after Highland Council decided to move towards implementing a levy on tourists.
There are strong calls for such a levy to be introduced in tourism hot spots such as Edinburgh and Skye as well as for the communities along the North Coast 500 road trip – feeling the strain from being hugely popular among tourists.
Mr Finnie said: “We are fortunate that this part of the world is so beautiful that many people come to visit and spend time here. No one would wish to deter them.
“But the fact is that as well as bringing benefits, tourism puts a strain on services. A modest charge for visitors could raise millions for the council while simultaneously improving services for tourists and locals alike.
“It’s a win-win and I would urge Shetland Islands councillors to consider the merits of the levy.”
However Shetland Tourism Association said that the introduction of such a scheme locally would be “entirely inappropriate”.
Its acting chairman Steve Henry said: “This is a scheme that fits well with large central belt authorities that have the resources to implement, collect and manage such charges. It’s entirely inappropriate for small local authorities in rural areas where the majority of providers are likely to be small businesses or self-employed people.
“The additional admin burden placed on these small providers is way out of proportion to any benefit they would ever receive in return once the costs are paid for the collection etc.”
The SIC’s political leader Steven Coutts said: “We believe a visitor levy would not be suitable for our economy. In particular, the high costs that visitors to Shetland face through expensive transport links and logistics mean that there is already an ‘islands premium’ paid by those choosing to visit Shetland.”