THOUSANDS more visitors could be drawn to Edinburgh’s waterfront if HMS Edinburgh joined the Royal Yacht Britannia as an attraction in Leith, a tourism expert said today.
Professor Joe Goldblatt, of Edinburgh’s Queen Margaret University, said there was strong potential for the retired Type 42 Destroyer to pull in new tourists if it were to find its last berthing place in the Capital.
A week ago the Evening News revealed the Ministry of Defence had performed a U-turn and was willing to have direct talks with the city council about a non-competitive sale of the warship. It had previously insisted it would be put up for auction.
Following the change of heart, Britannia chief executive Bob Downie suggested the ship could be secured for as little as £200,000 and said the Britannia management would be interested in running it alongside the Royal Yacht.
Professor Goldblatt said in the United States ships were huge visitor attractions. In San Diego, former aircraft carrier the USS Midway attracts almost a million visitors a year.
Professor Goldblatt said US museum ships were typically used not only as tourist attractions but also hired out for special events – including fund-raising events by companies, associations and charities.
But he warned the crucial factor was how the ship was managed and promoted.
He said: “It’s the management of these attractions which is critical. The Royal Yacht Britannia has been successful because of the exemplary management and marketing it has had.”
He pointed to the museum ship USS Intrepid in New York City which has had repeated money problems despite being in a place with such a big population and a huge number of tourists.
Professor Goldblatt said: “It’s because it has not had the same quality of management and marketing that Britannia has enjoyed or the ship in San Diego.
“But it shows it’s not just a case of sailing a ship into a port and people will come and visit.
“It still requires strong marketing and management.”
Some 250,000 people a year visit Britannia and Professor Goldblatt said having HMS Edinburgh close by could boost numbers by ten or 20 per cent. As the News reported yesterday, in McLellan’s Edinburgh, the berth could also have a beneficial knock-on boom for the Ocean Terminal.
The professor added: “Co-location is one of the growing trends in visitor attractions – having two attractions of a similar nature close together. It’s like in a shopping mall, people like to go to one place and use their time efficiently to see as much as possible.”
Independent Lothian MSP Margo MacDonald, who has been lobbying for HMS Edinburgh to come to Leith, has said she hopes the Scottish Government and VisitScotland will chip in to help the council secure the ship.
The Fortress of the Sea
HMS Edinburgh was built by Cammell Laird of Birkenhead, launched on April 14, 1983 and commissioned on December 17, 1985.
Know as the “Fortress of the Sea”, she served in the Second Gulf War in 2003 and carried out a range of other duties.
She underwent a £17.5 million refit in 2010, returning to the fleet in October that year.
HMS Edinburgh was the last of the Type 42 destroyer to serve in the Royal Navy and was decommissioned on June 6 this year after a farewell tour of Great Britain, which ended with two days when she was open to the public in Portsmouth.