Edinburgh council backs a tax on tourists

Edinburgh may become the first city in the UK to levy a tourism tax, with the city council considering a tax on overnight visitors and a clampdown on holiday home rentals.

Councillors in Edinburgh have backed calls to introduce a licensing regime for holiday lets through Airbnb, and the leader of the council also plans a “visitor levy” of £1 a night per person.

The licensing scheme would require all properties rented out for more than 45 days a year to be registered. This is half the annual letting period that Airbnb has voluntarily agreed to in London.

Edinburgh council intends to cap the number of properties available and carry out safety checks on those registered.

The moves come after Airbnb bookings for Edinburgh rose 70% last year to account for more than 1.1 million overnight stays.

Scotland-based property company Rettie estimates 10% of private-rented accommodation in Edinburgh has switched to Airbnb-style lets.

Edinburgh Scottish National Party (SNP) councillor Kate Campbell told The Financial Times: “We simply cannot allow our communities to be hollowed out in this way.”

The city council is a joint SNP and Labour administration.

Council leader Adam McVey of the SNP dismissed hospitality sector concerns about a tax on tourists, saying: “We have some of the highest occupancy and room rates anywhere in the UK. The sector is doing very well out of the tourist economy.”

Councils elsewhere in Scotland are reportedly backing Edinburgh’s tourist tax plan amid a deepening crisis in local council funding across Britain.

The London Assembly has sought powers to impose a bed tax and cities including Bath have proposed introducing tourism taxes.