LETTERS: Edinburgh’s unfriendly face will deter visitors

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with thousands of visitors descending on your city this August, I wanted to share with you my experience as a first time visitor this week.

I travel for a living and consult with venues, businesses and service providers to create a great customer, guest and visitor experience. Rarely have I been to a place that has been less friendly or more inhospitable than Edinburgh. Please allow me to give you a few examples:

1. Your city appears very dirty, with debris visible everywhere and the buildings blackened as if by soot. While the ancient structures are breathtaking, the overall appearance is one of filth and pollution. This is one’s first impression.

2. Never have I experienced such a complicated parking payment system as your street parking nor a lack of public parking in general.

Parking machines do not accept credit cards or notes, only coins and lots and lots of those are required, or one must download an app, which requires wifi, which is not available to visitors of your city like in most major cities today.

Or one can call a phone number to make payment over the phone. I doubt most international visitors have UK SIM card phones. All of these options are preposterous to a visitor from out of town. The apparent message to us is that parking is for locals not visitors.

3. Determined to see the city, I went into what I thought an obvious place to get enough coins to use the parking system, a Bank of Scotland branch.

After waiting in a long line, I apologised that I was there to get change for a £10 note for parking, to which the cashier haughtily replied that she could not provide change unless I had an account with the bank, which by my accent and demeanour she clearly knew I did not.

This would never happen in other cities like London, San Francisco, New York or Rome, all of which I have recently visited. Why in Edinburgh, in the very heart of the visitor centre of town, would your business leaders so disdain the query of a visitor who is simply trying to park in order to patronise your restaurants and shops?

4. I met similar indifference or hostility from shopkeepers, venue staffers and restaurateurs.

By contrast, one young greeter at the Castle was so friendly, asking visitors how they enjoyed their trip to the Castle. When the answer wasn’t positive, she perkily tried to overcome their experience with the sheer force of positive energy. I asked her where she was from – Spain.

I knew she couldn’t be Scottish from her demeanour and good cheer. In fact, it is hard to even find a native Scot working in and around the Royal Mile and that is likely not a coincidence.

The city should look into its heart and ask itself whether it truly wants to be a visitor destination. Good service has to come from the heart and I do not sense that it is in the heart of the Edinburgh people and that is OK to admit. At least it is honest. It’s not for everyone, regardless of the history or beauty of a city.

Grace Migliaccio, Italy

Celebrating Billie’s love of cycling

Throughout August, female cyclists from across Scotland will be celebrating the life of Billie Fleming in a series of tribute rides that will demonstrate the strength and popularity of cycling with women in this country.

In 1938, Billie, who died in May last year, aged 100, rode 29,603.4 miles – 35 times the distance from Land’s End to John O’Groats – and still holds the women’s world record for the greatest distance cycled in a single year. At the time, Billie wrote that she wanted one million more female cyclists because she saw it as an overwhelming energising experience.

Organisations such as Belles on Bikes are growing in number as women come together to organise bikes rides, training and maintenance instruction. The Billie Fleming Tribute Ride 2015, which recreates Billie’s tour of Scotland from the Borders to the Highlands, is just one activity where we can demonstrate the joys of cycling and I would encourage everyone to get involved.

Brenda Mitchell, Cycle Law Scotland & Belles on Bikes, Cavalry Park, Peebles

Apprenticeships are a good way to careers

This week, thousands of students across Edinburgh will be receiving their National 4 and 5 and Higher Grade results. While many may have a clear idea about their next steps, there will be plenty who don’t.

Many school-leavers still see apprenticeships as purely for blue collar careers, but that is far from the truth. Professional careers such as accountancy can be accessed via an apprenticeship. Earlier this year ACCA launched ACCA-X, allowing apprentice level students to begin their professional studies online for free.

School-leavers can begin studying for their ACCA qualification straight after their exam results and by the time their peers have graduated, they will have a professional qualification, a masters degree from the University of London and four years’ work experience, with substantially less debt (even with no tuition fees the average post-university debt for Scottish graduates is £30,000).

In today’s competitive job market those four years’ experience and a professional qualification will enhance anyone’s career prospects.

Craig Vickery, Head of ACCA Scotland

Timeless joy of the Princes Street piper

Every time I use the pedestrian crossing at the top of Waverley Bridge I seem to have to wait about half an hour for the green man. As this can’t possibly be the case, I wonder if the ever-present piper there just makes the time pass far more slowly. Surely there’s a case for making this a bagpipe-free zone?

David Panton, St Clair Place, Leith