Business bosses fear the introduction of a tourist tax could hit visitor numbers and trade.

The Scottish Government has committed to consult on, and introduce, legislation to give councils the power to apply the tax, also known as a Transient Visitor Levy (TVL), which would enable local authorities to introduce the levy.

But Ayrshire’s Chamber of Commerce say the tax would add another burden to a sector that is already struggling and send out the wrong message to visitors and investors.

Locally there has yet been no consultation as there has been in the Highlands, where proposals have featured accommodation-based levies as an option.

Further, TVL could potentially be extended to visitor attractions and activities fees, to cruise visitors, to tour groups fees or levy to use a motorhome.

Furthermore there is no clarity as to treatment of the cost of collecting TVL which presumably would be at the cost of the businesses.

No method of ring fencing the income generated by TVL is currently proposed thus ensuring the expenditure goes for tourism purposes which would be fair to both the businesses and those required to pay TVL.

CEO Val Russell said: “We recognise the vital importance of tourism to the local Ayrshire economy as well as the challenges North, South and East Ayrshire Councils face in providing infrastructure and services in the area.

“British hospitality businesses are already amongst the most highly taxed in Europe and the UK currently ranks 135th of 136 countries in the World Economic Forum on international tourism price-competitiveness. A tourism levy would further prejudice this position inevitably causing, higher prices, a reduction in visitor numbers and lower business profitability.

“All of this threatens the fair work agenda in a sector which already struggles to pay the real living wage as well as potentially reducing inward investment and impacting economic success in the supply chain and wider economy.

“The sector has also been dealing with unprecedented challenges in recruitment and retaining of skilled staff. This has been made even more difficult by the prolonged and damaging uncertainty around Brexit.

“The tourism sector is already facing significant cost pressure in recent years, particularly around business rates. Regardless of how the levy is framed, this would act as a further unwelcome tax on this sector.

“Ayrshire boasts some of the most impressive tourism assets and experiences. As we currently celebrate the investment in and launch of The Coig we need to ensure Ayrshire remains as attractive to visitors as possible.

“Many of our members operate in the tourism sector and we feel it will be a further burden on visitors and discourage people from coming here. It is the wrong mechanism to tackle the industry’s challenges and would send out a very negative message that Ayrshire is an increasingly expensive place to visit and to do business. “We urge our council leaders to consult with the sector before making any decisions and urge all tourism businesses to take part in the Scottish Government consultation that close December 2.”