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Visit Scotland | Alba
Article published 25/05/2023

Councils empowered to raise money for local tourism

The Scottish Government has published a news release announcing a Bill to enable councils to invest more in local tourism facilities and services through a levy on overnight stays.

If passed by the Scottish Parliament, the Visitor Levy (Scotland) Bill will give councils the power to apply a levy on stays in overnight accommodation based on a percentage of the accommodation cost.

All money raised would have to be reinvested locally on facilities and services substantially for or used by visitors enhancing the visitor experience and benefitting local communities and their economies.

Under the plans, councils would be required to consult communities, businesses, and tourism organisations before putting a visitor levy in place. They would also have to consult on how any revenue raised should be spent.

The proposals follow public consultation in 2020 and form part of the New Deal for Local Government. It gives councils greater financial flexibility and strengthens local democracy. Read the analysis of responses to the Scottish Government’s consultation on the principles of a local visitor levy.

Scotland is already a very popular tourist destination and the domestic and international visitors we welcome every year have a significant and positive impact on the Scottish economy. Giving councils the power to introduce a visitor levy is one tool that will provide additional resources to continue to attract visitors to Scotland.

Levies on visitors staying in paid-for accommodation are already used around the world and it is reasonable for local areas to want a small contribution from tourists to help support and sustain visitor economies.

There have been significant contributions to the Bill so far from the tourism industry, COSLA and other partners and I look forward to continuing to work with them as it progresses through Parliament.

Tom Arthur, Public Finance Minister

Advisory group to be formed

The Scottish Government has also invited representatives from the tourism industry, including the Scottish Tourism Alliance (STA), COSLA and other partners to join an expert group to consider how it could be implemented if passed.

We have been asked to bring together tourism industry bodies and local government to discuss how best any visitor levy can be implemented and to develop national guidance for local authorities.

Tourism is a force for good and our destinations play an important role in regional economic growth. If passed, a visitor levy could offer an opportunity to develop local investment proposals which could benefit our economy and our communities.

Investment such as this will ensure that Scotland continues in its efforts to be a world leader in 21st century tourism.

We welcome the Scottish Government’s commitment to engaging with stakeholders across the tourism sector as the Visitor Levy (Scotland) Bill progresses through parliament. We look forward to working closely with the industry, including the STA, and COSLA to develop non-statutory guidance for the proposed scheme.

Malcolm Roughead OBE, Chief Executive, VisitScotland

The Visitor Levy (Scotland) Bill

The Visitor Levy (Scotland) Bill, if passed, will give a local authority the power to introduce a visitor levy in its area, if it wished to do so.

The levy would be a percentage of the overnight accommodation cost with the rate set by the local council.

Councils would be able to apply a visitor levy in all or parts of their area. The levy would be collected by the accommodation providers and remitted to the relevant local authority on a regular basis (the default being quarterly).

It applies to almost all types of overnight accommodation within the area where a visitor levy is being applied, including hotels, self-catering accommodation, and campsites.


Taxes on overnight visitor stays are common across Europe and in other locations around the world.

As of 2023, 21 out of the 27 EU member states charge occupancy taxes. Some cities and regions (such as Berlin) use the levy as a way to increase general revenues while others (such as Nice and the Balearic Islands) ring-fence all or part of the revenues to fund specific projects.

Read the full Scottish Government press release.

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