Public engagement activity carried out last month identified support for raising income from tourism, including a tourist levy, which could support local infrastructure, as well as the tourism sector itself.
Members of the council have now agreed that, in addition to the council submitting its response to the Local Governance Review on tourism taxes, it will carry out its own consultation on the issue of a tourism levy.
Councillor Allan Henderson, chair of the council’s environment, development and infrastructure committee, said: “While the Council will be responding to the national consultation it is important that we add to this debate by gathering information that is specific to Highland. To do so, we need to engage with as wide an audience as possible to help decide what and where is unique and special about Highland tourism so that we can make the case for Highland at a national level.”
Convener Bill Lobban said: “We are already hearing in our engagement with the public that people are interested in new opportunities to make the most of tourism economy in the Highlands. A local consultation will help us to gauge the level of support for a tourist levy here, which could provide the means for improving our infrastructure and protecting and enhancing our environment.”
Councillor Maxine Smith, leader of the opposition said: “I have been lobbying for this for several years now. I sincerely believe there is a way to raise money that will benefit both local Council services, that are affected by so many tourists, such as potholes, toilets etc, but that will also benefit the tourism sector. Anything we make better in the Highlands will be good for all, not just tourists, but if you are visiting an area and it cannot provide you with quality ancillary products, such as sufficient laybys, toilets, parking sites, waste services then you are less likely to return.”
The consultation will start in early 2019 and be completed in the spring.