SPAA to challenge ‘detrimental’ cruise ship tax

The Scottish Passenger Agents’ Association (SPAA) has vowed to challenge a proposed tax on cruise ships visiting the country.

The policy idea was unveiled by the Scottish Greens, a coalition partner in the Holyrood government, during the party’s conference in Dunfermline on October 28.

SPAA president Mike Tibbert criticised the proposed levy during a Travel Weekly webcast ahead of the association’s annual awards, saying: “To introduce a tax that is detrimental – that might even affect our capability to bring people in – just doesn’t make sense.”

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Tibbert, general manager for Europe at Global Marine Travel, is preparing to hand over the SPAA presidency in the new year to Barrhead Travel president Jacqueline Dobson.

Dobson said she would continue efforts to contest the cruise ship levy proposal, adding: “We’re absolutely lobbying the government and we’ll work closely with Clia.”

The Scottish Greens said the levy would help to inject more money into communities hosting cruise ships, while also encouraging the production of more zero-emission vessels.

Scottish Greens co-leader Lorna Slater described the levy as “essential”. She said: “One ship produces the same amount of carbon emissions as 12,000 cars. Operators have been allowed to get away with polluting for too long. A cruise ship levy will empower councils to help tackle this global problem.”

More than 800,000 cruise passengers visited Scotland in 2019, according to VisitScotland, with ships making about 900 port calls.

Tibbert said: “A levy would have a big impact for the whole Scottish economy – not just the travel trade.

“We’re engaging with Holyrood at every possible opportunity, so this will be a major talking point for us when we do meet with politicians.”

Mark Ruskell, the Scottish Greens’ transport and environment spokesperson, acknowledged the benefits that tourism brings, but said residents living in port areas need “properly targeted help” because of the pressure on infrastructure.

He added: “We also know that [a levy] is steering the cruise industry towards investing in a greener and cleaner future, and we want to support responsible and sustainable activity.”

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