AIRBNB has warned that plans to regulate short-term lets in Scotland could have a knock-on impact on wider rural communities as the company warned the proposals could “cost the Scottish economy approximately £1 million a day”.

The Scottish Government has published its updated proposals to require short-term let operators to obtain a licence from local authorities to operate – but the move has angered the industry, particularly in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Ministers have now been urged to bring forward plans for “a more slimline registration scheme” rather than the licensing proposals.

Holyrood’s Local Government and Communities Committee quizzed industry leaders about the plans.

Amanda Cupples, Airbnb’s general manager for northern Europe, warned MSPs that “tourism remains in a very fragile place”, stressing the need to be “as supportive to Scottish tourism as ever before”.

She added: “It’s our belief that these proposals are not that.”

Ms Cupples also raised concerns on the wider knock-on impact on rural communities in Scotland.

READ MORE: SNP Government warned updated Airbnb crackdown plans will be 'disastrous' for economy

She said: “I speak to a lot of hosts, many of them tell me stories along the lines of ‘hosting on Airbnb allows me to stay in the village or in the community that I grew up in’.

“It provides employment for families, it supports the village pub staying open. These things will go and that is what our hosts are telling us consistently around Scotland. There is economic impact but there is also people’s lives that will be damaged by this.”

Ms Cupples added: “Our rural hosts tell us consistently that hosting on Airbnb is the way that they make ends meet – it is an economic lifeline for them. In many of those rural communities, without tourism, the communities themselves just simply don’t exist.

“It is our view that if you think about the costs of licensing for those hosts who haven’t given up and taken their properties off the market, it’s quite likely that the cost of compliance with licensing will be passed onto the end consumer.

“That will have the impact of driving up prices and potentially the impact of making Scotland less competitive as a destination versus many of the other options, particularly in those rural communities.”

MSPs were also told about the expected costs of any licensing scheme.

Indicative costs were put at around £300 or £400 - but Fiona Campbell from the Association of Scottish Self Caterers (ASSC), said that following discussions with local authorities and council leaderships, the fees are likely to be between £1,500 and £2,000 - “ more akin to a HMO licence”.

She added: “Any fee that’s added to the existing cost of doing business is simply going to be untenable for small businesses – especially in light of the global pandemic with huge increases in energy prices, services and consumables.

“We need to support small businesses and micro businesses as we come out of the pandemic. We’re not even out of survival mode realistically – we need to be able to recover.

“This licensing legislation is going to be hugely damaging to the Scottish tourism economy.”

Shomik Panda, director general of the UK Short Term Accommodation Association, called on politicians to “give it a bit extra thought to see whether a more slimline registration scheme would be more appropriate” for the Scottish industry.

He added: “That will allow you to get the data in terms of what and who is doing this – if there are any problems, you will then be able to enforce against them.”

Mr Panda said that despite plans being updated following fears raised by the industry, “larger concerns have not been removed”, adding that they are merely “positive tweaks”.

He added: “We need a fundamental overhaul of the thought of what is an appropriate system for Scotland at this point, taking into account not just the effects of the pandemic and the impact on businesses at this moment, when they are already beaten down quite significantly.

“We think licensing is not the right way forward and you have an opportunity to re-think this now.”