A TOP academic has warned Edinburgh’s tourism industry will “inevitably suffer” in the aftermath of Brexit.
Professor Kevin Hannam, of Napier University, said the impact of the EU vote would be “as big as the fall of the Berlin Wall”.
His comments come after MSPs were told EU workers contribute £7.3 billion to Scotland’s economy, with growing fears over their uncertain status.
Speaking to the Evening News, Prof Hannam, an expert in tourism, said: “The effect [of Brexit] is going to be so tremendous in terms of re-orientation of the whole UK economy.
“Edinburgh relies on tourism but it also relies on migration. If you look at the statistics, it’s a European city and a young city. There’s more EU migration than there is migration from outside the EU.
“My concern would be, going forward, that Edinburgh needs this migrant population to sustain its restaurant scene and hotels.”
While predicting a short-term tourism boom due to the devaluation of the pound, he said the long-term impact would be negative as the UK gained a reputation for being unwelcoming and restrictions were brought in over EU workers.
And he insisted a crackdown on European students and workers would disproportionately hit the hospitality and tourism industries.
He added: “A city like Edinburgh that really depends on tourism and events will inevitably suffer.”
Edinburgh is home to the largest concentration of EU nationals in Scotland, with up to 32,000 living in the city, figures show.
Victor Hugo Continental Delicatessen on Melville Terrace, beside the Meadows, employs 15 workers born elsewhere in the EU, with only three from Britain.
Manager Inga Norvaisaite, who is originally from Lithuania, insisted Scotland was her home – and said she didn’t believe she would ever feel unwelcome here.
She said: “I think Scottish people are so tolerant. That’s why I live in Scotland. I feel really welcome here. I don’t think Scotland in general will have any problems with hospitality. I don’t think Scotland will suffer any of that.”
She said Scotland should leave the UK if Westminster tried to bring in stricter controls on EU migrants.
Earlier this week, MSPs were told around one in 20 of Scotland’s 2.6 million-strong workforce was from other EU countries, with growing concerns over the fact that the UK government had failed to guarantee their right to stay.
Edinburgh’s reliance on financial services is greater than any other city in Europe, a report for Holyrood’s economy committee said, prompting concerns over “lost jobs and business” from any loss of full access to the key EU market.
The Scottish Government said it showed EU workers make a “significant economic contribution”.