Edinburgh stag and hen dos: Party boss hits out at 'puritanical busybodies' who want to discourage 'nuisance' tourism

Party visitors worth ‘tens of millions’ to Edinburgh economy

The boss of a stag and hen company has accused "puritanical busybodies” of trying to ruin Edinburgh for millions by discouraging party weekends.

Businessman Matt Mavir hit out after the Edinburgh Old Town Association (EOTA) argued the Capital should follow Amsterdam in launching a “Stay Away” campaign against “nuisance” tourists. Mr Mavir said stags and hens were worth “tens of millions” to the city each year and claimed that trying to dilute Edinburgh’s party scene would lead to “dire consequences” for many locals whose livelihoods depend on it. He said Edinburgh was the third biggest hen party destination in Europe and warned against treating stags and hens as “second class tourists”.

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Amsterdam is planning tighter licensing laws and restricted opening hours to discourage visitors attracted by the Dutch city’s cannabis coffee shops, bars and red light district. EOTA convener Eric Drake told the Evening News last week the issue for Edinburgh was stag and hen parties. He said: “Without wanting to sound snobbish, some types of tourist are better for the city or less impactful than others."

Edinburgh is the third most popular destination in Europe for hen parties, according to Matt Mavir.

But Mr Mavir, who founded his company Last Night of Freedom from his student house in Newcastle in 1999, said: “Less than five years ago, Edinburgh was voted Britain’s best party city and even beat Las Vegas and Sao Paulo. Fast forward to now, and you have puritanical busybodies trying to suck the fun out of much of the city. Our company alone sends thousands of people there each year without fail. But officials are playing a dangerous game by trying to alienate such a huge tourist market.

“We estimate stags and hens alone are easily worth tens of millions of pounds to Edinburgh’s economy each year, so to even suggest they won’t be welcome will just push them into the arms of a city that will gladly accept what they bring. And this cold front from officials, in which they are effectively calling people visiting for a night out a ‘second class tourist’, undoes the decades of good work Edinburgh’s done over the years to attract people from every background and it merely paints it as a city where you’re only welcome if your face fits.”

Mr Mavir’s company is now a multi-million pound business and has organised over 45,000 stag and hen trips since its launch. Edinburgh is currently its third most popular hen party destination in Europe, while also “a huge hit” with stags. And he linked the call for a “Stay Away” campaign with the city council’s bid to close down strip clubs by setting a “nil cap” on sexual entertainment venues in the Capital. The outcome of a judicial review of the policy is awaited.

Matt Mavir says 'puritanical busybodies' risk "kneecapping" the city's tourism and hospitality industries.

He said Edinburgh was just the latest city to push back against the stag and hen market, citing the example of York, where local MP Rachel Maskell claimed residents and tourists were being put off visiting the city centre because of the stag and hen party culture and called for a party zone to be set up away from residential areas.

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But Mr Mavir said the stag and hen industry was enjoying an unprecedented boom period following the easing of Covid rules and plenty of cities were “thrilled” to embrace the revellers he believed were unfairly targeted. “Go to somewhere like Liverpool or Newcastle, and you will find somewhere that has embraced these visitors. They are responsible for propping up hundreds if not thousands of jobs, and these cities are vibrant and thriving.

“If Edinburgh goes the other way, they are going to kneecap their own tourism and hospitality industries, which already took a battering during the pandemic, while also robbing the millions of people who want to sample the world-class nightlife. If you take the fun and colour out of a city, what are you left with? It might be nice but who will want to visit? There isn’t a major city on Earth that doesn’t have a booming night-time economy, but if a few nimby crusaders get their way, Edinburgh could soon be the first and that could have dire consequences for a lot of people whose livelihoods depend on it.”