Martin Hannan: City needs firm tourism strategy

THE remarkable success of Edinburgh Airport in dealing with 11.13 million passengers last year is a sign that this city really is on the up and up, at least as far as tourism goes.

Edinburgh Airport ... remarkable success. Picture: Ian Georgeson
Edinburgh Airport ... remarkable success. Picture: Ian Georgeson

With a million more passengers than it handled in 2014, Edinburgh’s remarkable rise to becoming Scotland’s busiest airport is very good news for the city – the 200 new jobs at the airport is proof of that.

It’s only going to get better, as the airport’s managing director Gordon Dewar said: “Last year we enhanced passenger choice by offering more routes and more destinations– and passengers responded by choosing to fly in and out of Edinburgh Airport in greater numbers than ever before.

“This unprecedented success of 11.13 million passengers through our doors highlights the draw of Edinburgh as a destination and the growing appeal that Scotland holds across the globe.

“We remain focused on delivering more success in the year ahead. In 2016 we will continue to improve the passenger experience at Edinburgh Airport with a multi-million pound investment in our check-in and baggage systems, an improved retail offering with greater choice products and we aim to expand our range of new routes and destinations in the year ahead.”

That’s the way Edinburgh should be thinking – being in the top rank of European cities all the time, joined to them and many others, with all that can mean for the local economy.

Yet I fear we are in danger of seeing Edinburgh being the goose that didn’t lay the golden egg. For we have also been told in the last few days that demand for hotel accommodation in the city is at an all-time high, and even though there are 21,000 hotel bedrooms in the city, it’s just not enough to meet demand, especially at the top end of the market. That increased demand was anticipated, and several hotels have opened in the city while there are plans for more.

It’s not enough, however, which just shows that those people who are nominally in charge of Edinburgh don’t have a clue about how to deal with this success. People want to come to Edinburgh in ever-growing numbers, but no one seems to have any sort of plan about how to deal with the influx, especially the City of Edinburgh Council.

The furore over the Royal High hotel plan proved that contention. The fact that the committee was split down the middle over the proposal showed conclusively that there is no agreement and certainly no consistency in the way the council views the future. Some might say that’s democracy at work, but I wouldn’t mind seeing a bit of good old fashioned political direction in the process.

Let’s deal with the Royal High hotel issue right away. It would have been good to have a new five star hotel in the city centre, but the location was wrong and the plan for that location was wrong, not something I write lightly given the tragic early death of architect Gareth Hoskins at the weekend.

For what it’s worth, I would have been delighted to see Mr Hoskins design a world class hotel for Edinburgh at another location – I am sure it would have been a massive adornment for the city.

There is definitely room for at least one five star hotel in the city centre, and I completely agree with Graeme Birse, director of the Edinburgh Institute, that such a facility is needed if the Edinburgh International Conference Centre is to attract high-end conventions.

We need more than that, however. It’s time for the council to draft an all-embracing comprehensive new tourism strategy that will put in place the facilities needed to ensure Edinburgh’s current success continues. To do otherwise would be to fail the future.

Winter’s Tale had me frozen to my seat

A group of pals and myself had a wonderful time at the Festival Theatre the other night, where we watched the film of the play A Winter’s Tale performed by Kenneth Branagh and Dame Judi Dench.

I was a bit apprehensive about watching the film, but so impressive was the cinematography and so powerful was the acting that within minutes you forgot it was a screen you were watching. The scriptwriter wasn’t too bad either.

There are more of these screenings to come, and I think the Festival Theatre is on to a big hit with these events. Good job by them.

Bowie trolls are a disgrace

There are not enough words of mine to express how sad I was to hear of the death of David Bowie yesterday morning. It is as if a part of my youthful history has just been taken away.

As an SNP member I utterly condemn the idiotic trolls who, within hours of his death, posted nasty remarks about Bowie and his support for the Union. I don’t know these people but this I do know – they do not speak for me, or the SNP, or the Yes movement, and they would do the cause of independence a big favour by going back down the sewer whence they came, because all they are doing is giving the unionist press a field day.

Why no emissions testing?

The state of the city’s roads is way beyond a joke, but there’s something even more disturbing about them.

In a programme called Car Sick tomorrow night, the BBC will allege – correctly, I can personally verify – that Edinburgh council has never used its powers to test vehicle emissions.

Why, since we have some of the most polluted streets in Scotland?

Root out perpetrators

To all those home and land owners who allowed Dutch Elm disease to flourish, so that the council is now going to cut them down – shame on you.