Isles tourism chiefs reject “ill-advised” call for tax on campervans

An MSP’s call to tax motorhomes visiting the Western Isles has been branded “ill-advised” by local tourism chiefs.

The islands’ trade body said it was “wholly unacceptable to suggest that we want to tax any of our visitors before they come here on holiday”.

Local MSP Alasdair Allan this week asked the Scottish Government to consider introducing a “motorhome levy” after figures showed a near 10-fold increase in the number of vehicles travelling to the isles in the last decade.

He said the tourism was welcome, but that the isles lacked “suitable sites” and waste disposal points.

But Outer Hebrides Tourism (OHT) said yesterday that the campervans were worth £2million per year to the local economy.

A study conducted this summer by OHT found that motorhome visitors spent an average of just under £500 per trip on food, drink, fuel, goods, arts, crafts and meals with businesses in the Outer Hebrides.

A spokesman said: “It is an enormously successful industry and is critical to the islands’ financial sustainability.

“We are renowned for our people, landscape, hospitality and the warmth of our welcome – it is therefore wholly unacceptable to suggest that we want to tax any of our visitors before they come here on holiday.

“Indeed 60% are repeat visitors and taxing them is not the way we want to repay them for their loyalty. Scotland, along with the rest of the UK, has one of the highest rates of tourism taxation in the world, with VAT at 20%, and any additional taxes will force visitors to look elsewhere for their holidays.

“It is completely ill-advised for our MSP to suggest we impose a tax on these visitors – his proposal, although it might raise £80k per annum, would put at risk an annual spend of £2million and the financial stability of our islands.

“Motorhome visitors are highly flexible in their holiday plans, so are most likely to choose another destination in the face of discriminatory taxes or levies.”

Ian Fordham, chairman of Outer Hebrides Tourism, said the organisation had sought an urgent meeting with Mr Allan to discuss the issue.