Forever Edinburgh: VisitScotland's Paula Ward hails the Capital's 'unique experiences'

Edinburgh won’t look the same but lockdown easing provides an opportunity for our capital city to ‘think about what it wants to become’ says Paula Ward, Regional Leadership Director at VisitScotland.

Tuesday, 4th May 2021, 7:00 am

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After a long hibernation residents, students, workers, and visitors are returning to Edinburgh.

It will be a slow reawakening and will take some time to get over the devastation caused by the pandemic but at last the city can look forward to thinking about what it wants to become.

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The city is beginning to open up again

The city won’t look the same. This will not be the normal of pre-Covid. The pandemic continues worldwide, restrictions remain, agile working policies will enable greater numbers to balance working from home with commuting to meet with clients and colleagues, and international travel has yet to restart impacting on business events and festival patronage

However, it is a chance for Scots to explore what is on their doorstep and discover their own country and a wealth of experiences.

For tourism, hospitality, retail, and events will help to rebuild the Scottish population’s well-being. Everyone deserves a holiday, and Scotland, and all it offers, will be the perfect antidote after lockdown.

It will be challenging for the industry. Consumer surveys have shown a preference for rural destinations and experiences, and there is still trepidation around COVID-19. However, those same surveys reveal that Edinburgh is the second most popular destination choice among UK visitors and their confidence to book a trip continues to rise with the success of the vaccine roll-out.

Backing our city: Paula Ward of VisitScotland

Survey findings also show that a coastline destination is the most popular choice for a summer overnight trip for Scots.

Edinburgh has an excellent opportunity to harness this new-found confidence to travel by combining messaging that highlights the fantastic experiences available in our UNESCO World Heritage and Creative City but also showcasing what is on our doorstep that caters for the desire for wide-open spaces, stunning coastlines, be it Cramond or Portobello to dip our toes in the sea, or the green-spaces and stunning playground of the Pentland Regional Park hills to the south.

It is about promoting all the rich experiences that can be had in the city. Those unique experiences are what drive the Forever Edinburgh campaign, launched jointly by City of Edinburgh Council, ETAG and VisitScotland. And in keeping with the sustainable recovery of tourism, aligning with the national tourism strategy, Scotland Outlook 2030, whereby we consider the welfare of communities as much as we value the needs of the visitor, it aims to distribute visitors across the city and spread the benefit to the surrounding regions.

It is heartening that after last year’s devastation to the festival circuit that we are seeing what can be possible in the current restrictions and guidance. The decision by the Edinburgh International Festival to go ahead as an in-person event, albeit in a new format, is welcome, particularly with its focus on venues that reach across the city to Edinburgh Park. The same for the Edinburgh International Children's Festival with its hybrid set-up.

Looking at the industry, there are more than 900 Edinburgh and Lothians businesses registered with the Good to Go scheme. Accommodation providers, visitor attractions, restaurants and tours are among those that have signed up to show they have carried out a Covid-19 risk assessment and are delivering against all government and public health guidance. The scheme has been adopted into the existing international Safe Travels scheme to ensure that international visitors are aware of the strict policies being implemented by our industry and have been recognised by the World Travel & Tourism Council for their global health and hygiene protocols.

The reopening of tourism comes with great responsibility, not only to the industry, but our visitors. Last year we saw a new homegrown visitor market which posed challenges, particularly for our rural areas. However, we have seen in recent weeks, with large crowds and littering in our green spaces, that responsibility is not solely bound to our stunning rural landscapes that surround the capital.

That’s why we launched our Responsible Tourism campaign. It is in all of us to respect and protect our country, so we can enjoy everything that it offers. And with that I would encourage everyone to take some time to explore Scotland. Whether a day out, overnight stay, or just a trip to your local pub or restaurant, it all helps to support our Scottish tourism industry and the livelihoods of our capital residents.

The Evening News is supporting Forever Edinburgh, a joint campaign between the City of Edinburgh Council, Edinburgh Tourism Action Group (ETAG) and VisitScotland. This encourages people to rediscover the city, its stories and places while supporting local businesses, promoting attractions, shops, bars and restaurants as lockdown eases.