Edinburgh’s tourism future is looking brighter - Neil Christison

To say tourism has faced a difficult few years in Edinburgh would be an understatement.
Neil ChristisonNeil Christison
Neil Christison

Not only has it had to deal with the economic challenges brought about by the pandemic but also recruitment in the sector and now energy costs.

However, while challenges remain, there is a general desire from both visitors and businesses to return to some kind of normality.

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After a lot of uncertainty, the industry is preparing for what is hoped, for many, to be the first full year of trading since the pandemic.

It was wonderful to see the buzz return to the city streets last year and the re-emergence of our world-famous festivals, which spread that creative energy across the city.

Accommodation bookings picked up substantially in 2021 in comparison to 2020 and there is hope for the coming season. It amounts to a sign that Edinburgh holds a very special place for visitors and that consumer confidence in seeking city breaks and daytrips is returning.

From top-class attractions, award-winning food and drink, exciting events, high quality accommodation providers and breath-taking scenery, tourism is a vital part of Edinburgh’s economy. It attracts creates jobs, sustains communities, and enriches our lives.

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In fact, a recent survey of residents in Scotland found that 87 per cent of Scotland’s residents rated tourism as the most important industry – higher than any other – in terms of its value to the economy. 87 per cent of those living in tourist areas also believe that tourism will help support local recovery from the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic.

World-class major investments came to fruition last year – providing inspiration at a time when tourism needed it most. The billion-pound retail lifestyle district St James Quarter and multi-million-pound whisky experience, Johnnie Walker Princes Street, show a continued support by global brands and are welcome additions to the city’s luxury standing.

This year the Red Carnation Hotel Collection will open a hotel in Princes Street, its first hotel in Scotland, and iconic sporting and country estate, Gleneagles, will launch its first-ever city outpost at St Andrew Square – a luxury 33-bedroom Gleneagles Townhouse.

While the return of international visitors will be important for the long-term recovery of the industry, people in Scotland still have a key role to play in helping businesses get back on their feet. The Forever Edinburgh initiative, which received funding from our Destination and Sector Marketing Fund, has been a fantastic platform for businesses and the tourism industry to engage with residents and visitors during an incredibly challenging time. Its Resident Rewards is a great example of encouraging locals to support what is on their own doorstep. And Edinburgh has a starring role in our recent Scotland is Calling campaign push to attract younger visitors.

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There is plenty to look forward to in 2022, not least Scotland’s Year of Stories. The city will feature as part of Dandelion, our country’s contribution to UNBOXED, a UK-wide festival of creativity and innovation. Two other projects within the wider UNBOXED programme – Dreamachine and PoliNations – will also visit Edinburgh.

Tourism brings many benefits which is why its responsible recovery is so important. Things can’t and won’t be exactly as before. We all have a duty of care to protect the natural, social, and cultural assets which make the city so special. I’d encourage visitors to ‘know before they go’ when it comes to travel; checking what is open and how busy places are before they make a trip but also encourage them to think about things like water safety, littering, camping and following the Scottish Outdoor Access Code. No matter how difficult times have been, being a responsible tourist and respecting and protecting our environment and communities makes for a better experience for everyone.

Neil Christison, Regional Director for Edinburgh and Lothians, at VisitScotland

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