Tourism businesses in Moray are considering voluntarily paying a levy to fund a new visitor initiative amid concerns the industry could collapse without funding.
Last year nearly 800,000 tourists visiting the region helped boost the sector to a value of £130million – a rise from about £80million recorded in 2009.
However, agency Moray Speyside Tourism faces closure after funding pledged to the organisation will come to an end this year.
Management have devised a tourism business improvement district (TBID) strategy that would involve all firms in the sector paying a levy to help cover the costs.
However, some outside the industry are considering voluntarily supplying cash to ensure visitor numbers continue to grow.
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Steve Oliver, a member of community group Dufftown 2000 which represents tourism business into the town, said: “I’ve been involved in tourism in Moray since 2002, first as a business owner and then the director of the Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival.
“It’s absolutely vital that we have a destination marketing organisation in Moray, not just to showcase our offering but also to advocate on behalf of businesses on the issues of direct importance.
“While Dufftown 2000 wouldn’t have to pay the levy, I’ll be recommending to the board that we voluntarily pay it because I wholeheartedly support it.”
The formation of the TBID is dependent on a postal ballot between the nearly 400 eligible businesses, which will run for six weeks between December and January.
If successful, tourism firms will be compelled to pay a levy that will be set dependent on the size of the company – it is understood most would pay the equivalent of 75p per day.
Penny Laing, owner of Logie Steading, said: “It’s vital that the TBID is voted in. We need an organisation to build on the work done over the last five years.
“As a Scottish destination, Moray Speyside is becoming known in its own right. We need to ensure the ball keeps rolling.”
Documents were submitted to the Scottish Government yesterday for permission to form the organisation, which would be the second of its kind in Scotland following Visit Inverness Loch Ness.
Moray Speyside Tourism expects its annual budget to more than double to £180,000 if the TBID vote is successful.
Operations manager Laurie Piper said: “Undoubtedly, local tourist-based businesses will suffer unless we establish a new way of driving growth in the industry.
“A TBID is the perfect alternative as it allows local businesses to control a collaborative funding pot, choosing where and how to invest their money.”