What difference does the Festival really make?  - Kevin Buckle

An interesting first week of the Festivals, in which, certainly from my own viewpoint, it has been hard to tell any difference from the week before.

Saturday, 14th August 2021, 4:35 pm
Festival visitors to The Space @ The Royal Surgeons Hall

It has been a busy week in the shop mostly with families visiting from England or further afield in Scotland so I haven’t had time to venture much beyond Princes Street.I have been told the Old Town is a lot busier and that is very much needed but there still seems to be the age-old problem of lots of people but very few buying anything.We have had a few people from shows in obvious by their promotional T-shirts but otherwise as I say it is lots of families who going by their conversations are very much enjoying their visit.A small number who are regular visitors have commented they prefer the city without the August mayhem but mostly it is families finally managing to get a break and very happy to do so unaware that this is not a typical Edinburgh in August.There are of course no Europeans to speak of and generally very few folk from outside the UK which has not been good news for the tourist shops that in particular do very well with Chinese visitors.There was a small influx of Americans as soon as they were able to come over but that seems to have ended quite quickly probably based on the US warnings not to travel to the UK.It is hard to say if the St James Quarter is having an effect either way. We see the odd Lego bag and a few others from the clothing brands but it rarely crops up when folk talk about their visit.Obviously the people we get in Avalanche may not represent an exact demographic of visitors at the moment but talking to other businesses around the city centre there certainly seems to be a big switch this year to UK holidaymakers and an unsurprising large drop in Festival-goers.I have always maintained Edinburgh is such a lovely city with so much to offer it really didn’t need the Festivals and certainly this year has given me no reason to change my mind.I’m by no means saying the Festivals should end of course but their importance to bringing people to the city in August may well be overvalued and any boost to the economy is almost certainly very hospitality-led and some might argue even detrimental to retail.So much money has been poured into supporting both the summer and winter festivals that it would be hard for many now to admit that it may not have been money well spent at least in recent years.I don’t think anybody would want to confidently predict what next summer will bring but a better mix of holidaymakers and Festival-goers would certainly help retailers without greatly harming hospitality.

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