Post-Covid Edinburgh risks becoming like Benidorm if millions of tourists return – Helen Martin

There’s a division among Edinburgh people when it comes to the city’s pre-Covid19 tourism. Some think it’s the main industry and economy and should be increased as much as possible.

By Helen Martin
Monday, 12th October 2020, 7:00 am
Tourists wear face masks as they visit Edinburgh Castle on January this year (Picture: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)
Tourists wear face masks as they visit Edinburgh Castle on January this year (Picture: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)

Others think it’s over-tourism, has a terrible effect on residents, and turns the historical, affluent Capital into a fun park.

One aspect of it that no-one can deny is the number of jobs hospitality provides for local people, even though not all are well-paid.

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Many hotels, pubs and chain restaurants see the profits going out of Scotland to their company in the UK or abroad. But it’s the locally owned pubs and restaurants and their employees who are teetering on the edge of ruin with Covid-19.

For most of them, local customers throughout the year are stability, with tourists as an extra boost. Now with another two-week shutdown for licensed businesses in the Central Belt, despite everything they’ve paid for in terms of screens, distancing and registering customer details, can they survive?

Nicola Sturgeon has expressed her sympathy and fear for such businesses, and is offering over £40 million in support. Yet she has been endlessly criticised by anti-SNP critics, for putting saving lives before businesses and employees’ income for a fortnight.

From the moment she announced the new restrictions (similar to those in many other countries, with some even more extreme), unionist politicians blamed her, rather than the scientists, medical experts and data providers who recommended the temporary closure.

By the next day, there were many predictions, including in the Financial Times and BBC, that by today Boris Johnson would be following Sturgeon and the Scottish government, as he often does.

Everything is based, not on the First Minister’s personal decision, but on the data showing where the highest percentages of positive virus tests are related to, whether that’s age groups, alcohol-providing hospitality venues, or other venues and pastimes involving group gatherings.

So why should any Tory, Labour or Lib Dem MSPs, MPs, or their supporters think any of this is a political issue, something to rant about, rather than Sturgeon taking expert advice and bearing the responsibility to deal with Covid-19 to save her people.

She admits and regrets that any shutdown affects the economy. But not as badly as it would be affected if the virus was allowed to run riot. We cannot be sure that it won’t continue to rise even higher than earlier this year, but short, temporary restrictions are a process that can possibly help avoid that, and another total lockdown. This is about protecting the economy as much as possible, as well as people. It’s not about party politics.

Control will have to carry on until we get vaccines, possibly next year. It will take a long time for half the population to receive them so we can reach back to some elements of normality. That’s about as much as we all know now.

But building up the economy again can’t start with international festivals and 4.5 million tourists which we have to hold back. Before huge numbers arrive, we have to revive local businesses from pubs and restaurants to trades, services, retailers and everything else, restoring local people’s income and careers. Only then are we ready.

Otherwise, unprepared, we become dependent on tourism, a city version of Benidorm.

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