Tourism tax to be implemented in the Highlands

The Scottish Highlands has become the first area in the UK to introduce a tourism tax on campers, with a £1-per-night levy being approved by Highland council.

The council hopes the money will be used to pay for public facilities so that visitors are not left with a ‘negative impression’ of the popular destination.

It comes after members of the Scottish parliament (MSPs) were told during a tourism committee meeting last year that people were being put off visiting the Highlands because they ‘have to go to the toilet behind a bush’.

The funds raised, which are estimated to be up to £10 million a year, will be put towards keeping towns and villages in the region in good condition.

Under the scheme, which could come into force as early as 2021, the council could impose a rule that hotels or other businesses would have to charge visitors extra money to offset the impact of growing tourism on local infrastructure.

However, concerns have also been raised that it should not just be a hotel “bed tax”, but also be extended to cruise ship passengers and motorhome users as well.

Tourism is vital to the region, creating 25,000 jobs, with opponents of the scheme fear that the tax could put people off visiting the Highlands.

A spokesperson for the Inverness Chamber of Commerce said that imposing a local tax on visitors gives “a clear statement” that the area will be more expensive than others to visit.  They added that the tourism sector is already facing unprecedented challenges with recruitment and retention of skilled staff.

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