Karen Koren: Row over Pete Irvine’s over-tourism claim may help sell his book

I was at the book launch of Pete Irvine’s ‘Scotland the Best’ on Monday evening at Summerhall, the great and the good of Edinburgh were there to celebrate the 25th edition of the travel guide, writes Karen Koren.

Thursday, 28th March 2019, 5:00 am
Pete Irvine caused controversy with his comments about 'over-tourism'. Picture: Neil Hanna

Scotland the Best is published every couple of years and is the bible for travellers, tourists and locals alike. It has become regarded as Scotland’s go-to travel and lifestyle guide.

Pete has been causing a bit of controversy in the local press saying that Edinburgh is suffering from over-tourism. He stated: “Over-tourism is a word that has only recently been coined, but those of us who live with it know what over-tourism means. If you live in Venice or other European city centres, including Edinburgh, then you know that tourists come in waves. In Edinburgh’s case, they come to the Royal Mile and sometimes make it impassable. You dread going across town if you have to go that way. If you’re in the streets or up and down the closes of the Old Town of Edinburgh, and they’re mobbed with people, it’s pretty hard to get the atmosphere of that place.”

Irvine states that he has experienced over-tourism in other parts of Scotland, including Skye, the Outer Hebrides, Orkney and around the north coast while researching his new book, especially with tourists renting caravans or camper-vans which take up single track roads and make it difficult to get past them. They take camper-vans, which many have difficulty manoeuvring, as the hotels are expensive and there’s not enough of them.

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He said: “The phenomenon of over-tourism means that tourist seasons are now extending. It’s no longer just a few months in the summer. We famously don’t have great weather in Scotland, but independent travellers don’t care – if they like the landscape they come dressed for the weather. Most people I know don’t go around Scotland in the summer, they go in the spring or autumn, but they are both also very busy now.”

I agree to some degree with what Pete says, however, he also needs to sell the book and what better way to do it than to cause a bit of controversy? I know it made me buy it.