Edinburgh Castle on Castle Rock in the light of the setting sun

How many places on earth are there where you can stand in actual 12th Century Castle, in the middle of a buzzing city? Nearly 4 million travelers visited Edinburgh in 2018 and it’s fair to say that 4 million people have an impact on well, everything that goes on in a city, let alone a historic castle. From mass transit needs to environmental impacts, all mass tourism carries great consequence and Edinburgh has now voted to tax visitors to help curb rising costs. They’re hardly the only ones…

a stone structure with columns and a city in the background#TouristTax

Though a final vote must pass Scotland’s Parliament, Edinburgh City Council voted 43-15 in favor of a #TouristTax. The move would add a charge of £2 ($2.58) per person for each night a traveler stays in the city, which maxes out at seven nights for a total of £14 maximum. The tax would be added to hotel guest bills and would work rather seamlessly.

As tourists opt for micro trips without overnight stays, these overnight taxes aim to help to ease city investment needs. Of course, taxed too highly, they could push travelers further towards day trips, but at £2 a night it’s a very reasonable amount, and hardly a reason to change plans.

Edinburgh Castle on Castle Rock in the light of the setting sunEdinburgh is not the only one. In recent years, virtually every country in Europe has developed some sort of tourist surcharge, aimed at improving facilities and protecting local integrity. You’ll find some sort of “transient visitor levy” known as a TLV in Spain, France, Portugal, Italy and beyond. Further abroad, Japan launched a tourist departure tax in January.

By design, the fees are intended to help cities and tourism regions maintain and improve upon their current offerings, and ideally become more visitor friendly. From updated modern airports with more immigration staff to better mass transit facilities to get into town, major investment is crucial as world tourism grows. Low fares mean more people, and more people means a greater drain on even the most basic things, like clean water.

Is £2 a day worth a better city experience for locals and visitors? How could it not be?


Gilbert Ott

Gilbert Ott is an ever curious traveler and one of the world's leading travel experts. His adventures take him all over the globe, often spanning over 200,000 miles a year and his travel exploits are regularly...

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  1. I’m kind of torn on taxes like this. If there are no other taxes besides sales tax, this is completely reasonable. The problem lies in the dizzying array of taxes that tourists tend to get stuck with while traveling. I don’t like being considered a sucker for visiting a place any more than other people.

  2. In Bern you pay a mandatory Swiss tourism tax but also get a free transit pass with your hotel stay. This is a pretty great deal and encourages tourists to see more places than just the city center — I thought it was a very fair bargain.

  3. If you add to the mix that it will be a tax per room not per person and unlike most other major cities in the world, museums and art galleries are free to enter in Edinburgh, then the very small fee is worth it. The rest of the UK will immediately follow, They are just afraid of the perceived bad publicity of being the first.
    Edinburgh has a population on 500,000 but has 4,000,000+ visitors a year. This includes the month long worlds largest arts festival. The city needs the funds to cope with infrastructure. The residents of Edinburgh voted by a large margin for this levy.

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