Edinburgh over-tourism: Why Festival and Fringe should be held in different months – Helen Martin

Edinburgh needs to think ‘outside the box’ to help the city cope with the numbers of tourists who come here, writes Helen Martin

Monday, 11th November 2019, 6:00 am
The Christmas fairground might be more suited to Portobello than Princes Street Gardens. Picture: Ian Georgeson

THANKS to fellow columnist and Tory councillor John McLellan, we now know that revenue from an Edinburgh tourist tax would be spent on tourist-related activities. He didn’t give that the thumbs-up, and just confirmed that’s what the Scottish Government ordered and what the tourist sector is demanding.

That is not what most of us, especially city centre residents, agree with. It should be spent on locals’ compensation and paying for local services that have been neglected or cut back.

But maybe we need a new “consultation” to come up with tourist sector spending that would make Edinburgh a nicer place in which to live and work, rather than a suffocating number of tourists dragging it towards Hell.

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Thinking “outside the box” is the only way, even if some ideas are preposterous and others are possible, to find a good, forward path.

We could widen the Edinburgh/Lothian tourist area and tourist bodies so that we could encourage tourists to stay in and visit Portobello, Musselburgh and Linlithgow, for example, instead of concentrating them all in a tiny city centre, 24 hours a day. Signing up with East and West seems like a good Lothian tourist plan.

Christmas fairground in Porty?

Splitting the Festival and the Fringe, with one staged in April and the other in August or September? Why should performers and buskers clutter streets and force closures, wrecking locals’ lives? Why not create that buzz area on the flat meadow of Holyrood past the palace – a five-minute walk from the High Street?

And that would be a better venue for a Christmas Market (if we must have one), depending on getting a deal with the park, of course. An international market rather than predominantly German wins most votes.

If the Christmas fairground (totally out of place in the city centre) has to carry on, Porty would be a good location, especially as there are so many good cafes, pubs, local shops and restaurants in the area.

Bus tours, especially to East Lothian (for example, North Berwick), Midlothian (packed with tourist attractions), West Lothian (Linlithgow Palace for a start), and the Borders (beautiful rural scenes) could be strongly promoted. They too, could arrange more tourism events.

Silent fireworks

Tourists, from overseas or new to Scotland, don’t have to be concentrated in our compact little city all the time. They can stay here and travel out, or stay out and travel in.

It may be that the areas outside Edinburgh would not want to charge a tourist tax initially but might build up to that if necessary.

The difficulty for Edinburgh (something which perhaps those who have always lived here don’t appreciate) is that it is very small and tight as a capital city centre. And it’s highly residential. That doesn’t make it a good place for over-tourism and having numbers increased. Reducing tourist numbers is almost impossible.

But spreading them out (not just as far as our suburbs) is a possible answer and would help boost the income and jobs of our Lothian partners . . . if they were up for it.

Finally, does it cost more, or less, to have silent fireworks which offer spectacular light shows but without explosive bangs? Delhi suffers from awful, toxic pollution, and was even worse recently with explosive fireworks set off during Diwali, as well as surrounding farmers burning off old crops.

For me, animals suffering from fireworks is most important but if reducing pollution and carbon emissions is a city and Scottish goal, and banning fires would ease the job of fire officers too, maybe a tourism tax could help those “tourism-related” plans.

All rubbish? Perhaps. But the more ideas from locals rather than money-makers, the better.