Fears legionnaires’ has hurt Capital tourist trade

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Fears have been raised that the Capital’s tourist industry has been hit by the legionnaires’ outbreak.

City councillors discussed the issue yesterday after hoteliers reported cancellations linked to the disease, but industry leaders said hotels in the Capital were suffering because of the economic climate, not because of legionnaires’.

It comes as the Scottish Government announced that the number of suspected legionnaires’ cases had plateaued, remaining at 88 for the second day running. Of those, 39 are confirmed and 49 suspected. The number of people discharged from hospital rose to 25.

City centre Councillor Joanna Mowat said she and her Conservative colleagues had been contacted by bed and breakfast owners reporting a drop-off in the number of stays.

She told the policy and strategy committee: “We’ve seen evidence that there is a dropping off of bookings in hotels and bed and breakfasts. ”

Cllr Mowat sought assurances that there would be a publicity drive following the conclusion of the outbreak to reassure visitors to the city, although senior officials said they were cautious about such an approach. Mark Turley, director of the services for communities department, said: “If we say it’s safe to come to Edinburgh now people say ‘Well was it not before?’.”

Neil Smith of Smiths’ Guest House in Mayfield Road was one of those to raise his concerns. He said: “We’ve had a couple of bookings we lost through it – we had an email saying ‘Is it safe to come to Edinburgh?’ and we talked to other people and they’ve said that they’ve had cancellations.

“One of the guests was from Canada and one was from Sweden and they said they’d got health problems and didn’t want to come because of the legionnaires’.

“I think the response to the outbreak was actually very quick, and you try and tell guests that it’s being dealt with but once it goes international they’re just getting the same message again and again about people going into hospital.”

However, Colin Paton, chairman of Edinburgh Hotels Association, said he didn’t think the hotel sector had been badly affected by the outbreak. He said: “I’ve heard of the market being down in Edinburgh, but I don’t think it’s anything to do with legionnaires’ disease. I think it’s the economy, and the euro’s strength. I get the impression that the legionnaires’ thing has been quite well controlled.”

A report to the council’s policy and strategy committee said officers had been in touch with VisitScotland, which had received no notification of trips to the Capital being cancelled.

In response to the latest figures on the outbreak, Health Minister Nicola Sturgeon said: “It is reassuring to see no increase in the number of cases and a small reduction in the number of hospitalised patients.

“NHS Lothian are coping well and I would once again like to thank all the staff involved.”

The investigation to trace the source of the outbreak is continuing.