Ghost tours set to be banned from Royal Mile

Jan Henderson fears the move will result in 'bloodshed'. Picture: Bill Henry
Jan Henderson fears the move will result in 'bloodshed'. Picture: Bill Henry
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SOME of the Capital’s world-famous walking tour operators have warned they are under threat after proposals were drawn up to ban guides from touting for business on the Royal Mile.

City chiefs want to cut the clutter on the historic thoroughfare by forcing promoters to instead share space in Parliament Square, Hunter Square and the Grassmarket.

But the plan has sparked a fierce backlash with warnings of “tour wars” as rival companies vie for business.
Jan Henderson, who has run City of the Dead tours from outside St Giles’ Cathedral for more than 12 years, said it would result in “bloodshed”.

He said: “At the moment we all work together, we work next to each other and we have an understanding. This could completely destroy that and have us fighting against each other in the street. All of the smaller businesses will completely go out of business as they can’t compete with larger companies who have a lot more staff.

“The council say they want to level the playing field but that’s like having a Tesco next to a hot dog stall. It’s a lovely idea but, in reality, logistically it’s not possible.”

The council decided to act after complaints about tour operators standing around with placards. Now they will all have to put their posters on one big advertising board at each designated point, where the rival guides will gather.

The radical move, which is now out to consultation, follows a similar ban on business “A-boards” on the Royal Mile and Rose Street in 2010.

In August, the Evening News revealed new council regulations to crack down on shopfronts with cheap kilts and tartan tat as part of wider project to revive the halcyon days of the street. City centre Tory councillor Joanna Mowat said the idea was in tune with efforts to improve the tourist heart of the city but said: “I’m not that sure this is the answer – there is certainly a bit more work that needs to be done as we need to come up with something that works for everyone.”

Traders in the Old Town were split, with some urging to council to enforce existing regulations to clear clutter, while others said there wasn’t a problem.

Bill Cowan, who owns the Aha Ha Ha joke shop on West Bow, said: “There’s a lot of stuff that already goes on like pavement clutter, A-boards, tables spreading out right across the pavement, which they should sort, instead of fussing about problems that don’t exist.”

But Will Tebbutt, manager of the Fudge Kitchen on the Royal Mile, said the tours attracted custom to the area.

“I’ve never noticed any problems with them and I’ve been here 13 years. They’re good for business, they bring people to the street and the shops. I think it would be harmful to business if someone tried to restrict them.”

A council spokesperson said: “We are consulting with a number of walking tour companies as part of our action plan to improve the appearance of the Royal Mile. No decision has been taken at this stage.”

kate.pickles@edinburghnews.com