Edinburgh Festivals' return to former glories should inspire city to fully re-open for business – John McLellan

After two lost years and the world returning to something approaching normality, at least as far as travel is concerned, the return of a proper Festivals season this August should give the Edinburgh economy a long-waited and very welcome boost.

Thursday, 19th May 2022, 12:30 pm
Nick Barley is director of the Edinburgh International Book Festival (Picture: Greg Macvean)
Nick Barley is director of the Edinburgh International Book Festival (Picture: Greg Macvean)

With the International Festival’s 75th anniversary and the Film Festival reverting to August, in years gone by there would probably have been more hand-wringing about how the city can’t take any more, the kind of angst which led to the council’s complacent self-harm in pulling the plug on its marketing agency.

Therefore, Book Festival chief Nick Barley might not find universal approval for his view that the city should send a signal to the world that Edinburgh is “the place to be” this August.

“Our message, as festivals and as a city, has to be that this is one of the places to be in the world in August,” he said, although without a properly-funded marketing strategy that might be harder to achieve than in the pre-pandemic years.

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That’s not to say he’s wrong, and despite wild comparisons with Venice and Amsterdam, away from the High Street the negative effects of “over-tourism” were for the most part hard to detect.

There is ongoing concern about the impact of short-term lets, but then complaints about more hotels and student accommodation, so the most effective ways of tackling demand also meet spirited objections.

Tackling housing shortages is a priority, but so too is fully opening Edinburgh for business. And not just in August.