Edinburgh Council backs 'radically different' tourism strategy despite action plan fears

Councillors have endorsed a “radically different” tourism strategy that will see a move away from “destination marketing” and emphasis put on “destination management” – amid fears no action plan has been drawn up.

Wednesday, 22nd January 2020, 6:00 am
Updated Wednesday, 22nd January 2020, 6:44 am

Edinburgh City Council’s policy and sustainability committee gave the Capital’s new draft tourism strategy, being co-ordinated by the Edinburgh Tourism Action Group (ETAG) the thumbs up – despite concerns by Conservatives that no explanation as to how the overhaul will be achieved has been set out.

If formally approved, tourists will be asked to help reduce the environmental impact of their visit to Edinburgh and the industry will be required to measure and mitigate its environmental impact – with a pledge that the Capital remains an authentic “living, working city”.

Council leader, Cllr Adam McVey said that the changing priorities away from encouraging as many people to visit the Capital “cannot be under-estimated”.

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The city council has endorsed a new draft tourism strategy for Edinburgh

He added: “To shift an entire partnership that includes the airport and the industry to focus on management and sustainable growth is something we should be proud of.

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“This is about managing the city better and I think this strategy gives us a fundamental shift about how to to that best for the people who work in the industry and people that call this city home.”

Conservative group leader, Cllr Iain Whyte, raised concerns that no action plan has been published as was expected and hit out at previous council administrations encouraging growth of the tourism industry in Edinburgh, but the current SNP-Labour coalition cutting funding for Marketing Edinburgh – which promotes the city to the world.

He said: “A growing number of residents feel the city has not managed tourism well or has done it badly. There’s still an expectation of growth in this strategy, so it’s about how we manage it properly. Without an action plan, it doesn’t actually set out how we will do any of that managing or what we will achieve.

“We are doing away with Marketing Edinburgh because of the decision made by this council administration. I cannot in all honesty for citizens accept this strategy until I know it’s meaningful and will have proper targets.”

But officials moved to reassure councillors that the tourism industry is expected to continue to grow over the next decade.

Chief executive Andrew Kerr said: “It’s likely we are going to have growth year on year for the next 10 years. There’s no need to go out and seek more growth of any visitors.”

Green and Liberal Democrat councillors backed the draft strategy being endorsed by the authority – with SMART measures to be developed to track its success, while ETAG will be asked to consider how to include residents’ voices as a “key stakeholder”.

Green Cllr Alex Staniforth said: “We have seen Cllr Whyte criticise the previous administration for encouraging growth and then the current administration for cutting funding to Marketing Edinburgh. It’s completely mixed up – you are criticising people coming and going. You should make up your mind whether you want growth or not.

“We are clear that managing growth is the way to go, that avoiding this encouraging of growth that has gone on before is the right way.”

ETAG has welcomed the council backing the draft strategy.

Donald Emslie, chairman of ETAG, said: “The City of Edinburgh Council’s endorsement of the strategy is a significant milestone and their support and leadership in the development process to date has been key to ensuring that the city will continue to be recognised as an extremely successful, innovative and forward thinking exemplar of tourism development in the UK.

“The 2030 tourism strategy reflects this, presenting a significant step change in the approach to tourism in the city that responds to the changes, challenges and opportunities that the 2020s will bring.”