A new report has called for a levy to target visitor vehicles, including campervans, motorhomes and caravans.
Published by Lochcarron man Robin Pettigrew, it suggests such a move could ‘more effective’ than tourist tax on accommodation.
The report, entitled ‘Tourism: But not at any price’ states: “The success of VisitScotland and other agencies in delivering an ever-increasing number of visitors to Scotland has unfortunately not been matched with sufficient infrastructure investment to accommodate them.
“This is having a massive environmental impact across Scotland – extensive litter and human waste pollution, destruction of and damage to flora and fauna, erosion of road verges by parked cars and vans, obstruction to other road users (including emergency services), fouling of watercourses by chemical waste, barbeques and campfires.”
Pettigrew argues that “a vehicle-based tax is not only fairer but it will bring in a similar level of revenue.”
He proposes that vehicles of residents and businesses in the Highland council area should be exempt.
He said: “There are people in the central belt who have a lot of ill-informed and untested assumptions about tourism in the Highlands including the NC500
“While I don’t want to single out any particular minister, however when we approached one, the response was that campervans help tourism in the Highlands and benefit the region financially yet the evidence that we have points in the exact opposite position.”
Known as Scotland’s answer to Route 66, the 516-mile North Coast 500 (NC500) was created to help boost tourism in the North Highlands and generate economic opportunities for the area.
The route begins and ends in Inverness and follows the coast of the North Highlands of Scotland, taking in the regions of Wester Ross, Sutherland, Caithness, Easter Ross, the Black Isle and Inverness-shire.
Amongst the many accolades it has received, the North Coast 500 was named ‘Best Road Trip in the World’ by Condé Nast Traveler in April 2017.
Research carried out by University of Glasgow Training and Employment Research Unit suggests a 26 per cent average rise in visitor numbers to the areas of the Highlands involved, compared to a six per cent increase across the rest of the region.
The study also found the volume of traffic on the route to have rose by 10 per cent, with accommodation providers and visitor attractions along the route benefitting from an average of 15-20 per cent increase in trade.
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