Edinburgh tourism: Hen and stag-do parties should be welcome in Capital – Susan Dalgety

Edinburgh has long shrugged off its traditional stuffy, unwelcoming image.

The hen do trade is harmless fun and very profitable for Edinburgh’s hospitality industry (Picture: Joe Giddens/PA)
The hen do trade is harmless fun and very profitable for Edinburgh’s hospitality industry (Picture: Joe Giddens/PA)

Instead of being greeted with “you’ll have had your tea?” as in days gone by, visitors to our city are more likely to be met with a cheery “Fancy a gin and tonic or a glass of fizz?”

But not for much longer if Edinburgh’s Old Town Association (EOTA) gets their way. The group has responded positively to plans by Amsterdam to discourage “nuisance tourism”.

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The Dutch city, famous for its canals and cannabis cafes, attracts 21 million visitors a year. Some go to enjoy the many cultural delights Amsterdam has to offer – the Van Gogh museum, for example, is one of the best art collections in the world.

Others go to enjoy less high-minded pursuits, and it is the pot-smokers and beer drinkers the city’s tourist bosses want to stay away. “To keep our city liveable we need to choose limits instead of irresponsible growth,” Sofyan Mbarki, Amsterdam’s deputy mayor, told Forbes magazine recently.

The Old Town Association is so tickled by the Dutch approach that it wants Edinburgh to follow suit. EOTA convener Eric Drake told this newspaper that, while the Capital did not have cannabis cafes, it still has too many undesirable visitors.

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“Without wanting to sound snobbish, some types of tourist are better for the city or less impactful than others,” he sniffed, sounding very old-school Edinburgh, adding, “for us it would probably be more about discouraging hen and stag-party type of tourism”.

I am no fan of hen parties myself. It’s been a long time since I was invited to one, and the last one I did go to, I was in bed by 8pm, leaving the rest of the “hens” to go clubbing while I slept off the bottle of red wine I had drank at the restaurant. I have never worn a pink boa or a t-shirt proclaiming “Team Bride”, and indeed I find the concept of getting very drunk while dressed in an outrageous costume quite ridiculous.

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But lots of people would disagree, and not just young women. I know plenty of older women who like nothing better than a good “hen”. And why not? It’s harmless fun and very profitable for Edinburgh’s hospitality industry, which needs all the help it can get at the moment.

Google hen and stag parties in Edinburgh and you will find everything on offer from a crazy golf weekend to more sophisticated champagne-filled breaks. Malmaison even offers joint hen and stag parties where the bride-to-be and her prospective groom can celebrate together. But if Eric Drake and his committee get their way, Edinburgh will turn their nose up at Holly and her hens from Leeds, preferring instead Giles and Amanda from Surrey on a weekend break at the Balmoral.

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Do we really want to go back to the 1970s when Edinburgh closed at 10pm every night, and our city had a – partially deserved – reputation for being snobbish and mean-spirited? Or should we celebrate the wonderfully vibrant, diverse city we are today, and offer a very warm Auld Reekie welcome to visitors of all shapes, sizes and backgrounds?