Deadline looms for island tourism businesses
The legislation applies to all forms of “short-term lets” ranging from houses rented through sites like Air B&B to traditional Bed and Breakfasts. Failure to register by 1st October could lead to fines of £2500.
However, many small businesses in the B&B category, faced with daunting costs to meet registration standards as well as increased bureaucracy, are expected to drop out.
A spokesman for Comhairle nan Eilean Siar said on Wednesday: “There has been a significant increase in applications in August. In 2021/22 it was estimated there were between 770-950 short-term lets in the Outer Hebrides, although it was not clear how many of them would fall under the new licensing scheme criteria.
“There is a month left for existing hosts to apply for a licence if they want to continue operating legally after 30 September.
"Even if they are not planning to operate again until next year, they legally need to have made a competent application for a licence to take future bookings. We are aware that the main online platforms have been asking for short-term let licence numbers.
“We are seeing increasing numbers of incomplete applications and queries over the last few weeks with hosts unable to get the electric and gas checks done as so many have left it so close to the deadline.
"We are asking that all operators get their applications in as soon as possible, with as much information as they have available so that we can work with them to make their application competent before 1st October”.
Sara Maclean, chief executive of Outer Hebrides Tourism, said they are encouraging members to register while aware that some think it isn’t “worth the hassle”.
They estimated earlier in the summer that around 60 per cent of accommodation businesses in the islands had failed to register with some planning to give up while others might operate “under the radar”.
Ms Maclean said they would be making a fresh push to encourage registration before the end of September. She said it would have better to extend the deadline to December to give operators more time after seasonal business died down.
Kenneth Burns, who runs a highly-rated bed and breakfast business in Stornoway, said he was not sure if it would be worthwhile continuing. “I am faced with £4000 of costs in order to carry on and I just don’t know if it’s worth it”, he said.
Mr Burns has written to every MSP in the Highlands and Islands calling for B&Bs and guesthouses to be excluded, even at this late stage. He says that other owners he knows who are in the same position as himself are also considering giving up.
Nationally, the Scottish Bed & Breakfast Association says the new scheme will “cost jobs and push up the price of holidaying in Scotland, while doing nothing to tackle housing challenges”.