Edinburgh over-tourism: We need new tax, Airbnb ban and fines for misbehaviour – Helen Martin

EDINBURGH World Heritage research into the effect of tourism on the city involved surveys of visitors and interviews with shop workers on the Royal Mile, no doubt along with other aspects of how this famous street could survive.

By The Newsroom
Monday, 29th July 2019, 10:08 am
popular: Tourists flock to Edinburgh from all over the world but need to be persuaded to venture outside the city centre more (Picture: Steven Scott Taylor)
popular: Tourists flock to Edinburgh from all over the world but need to be persuaded to venture outside the city centre more (Picture: Steven Scott Taylor)

Personally, I see this concern as something so blindingly obvious that extensive research and studies seemed pointless.

For about a year, I have devoted column space to the nightmare over-tourism is creating in our Capital.

A long time ago, I aligned it with Barcelona, Venice, Rome and Amsterdam, who all suffer from the same crammed streets, destroying our history, culture and beauty.

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Another study from the Edinburgh Tourism Action Group which represents tourist businesses, has suggested “concerted action” to ease the “growing pains” of the tourist industry.

I do, however, back EWH and assume their research is not to simply reveal the damage crowded packs of tourists cause the city, but to provide convincing evidence.

As they say, the Royal Mile risks becoming a tourist ghetto with destruction due to the domination of souvenir tat shops, loss of local character and local people, and over-commercialisation.

Visitors complain about being surrounded by foreigners rather than Scots.

That’s not surprising either. No locals would want to live in that mayhem and would do anything to avoid the hordes.

Our city centre is the main architectural and historical attraction for tourists, but it’s so mobbed they miss out on these two aspects, especially during festival time in peak summer.

There are two simple factors of this disaster.

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Royal Mile at risk of becoming 'tourist ghetto' amid damning new findings

One is the size of the city centre – tiny in comparison to Barcelona, Venice, and Amsterdam.

There’s a limit to the number of tourists it can cope with.

The other is that neither the council nor the tourist industry accepts tourist numbers must be cut and limited. A tourist levy is one step.

Preventing hotel building is another. There shouldn’t be “growing pains” for the tourist sector. It has to be restricted and restrained.

In comparison to New York, London, Paris, Berlin etc, Edinburgh is a hamlet. Before long the whole centre, let alone the Royal Mile, could become a tourist ghetto. Litter is another issue at peak visitor times – something that Portobello knows too well, even when it comes to folk from across the city arriving to spend the day on the beach, leaving cans, plastics, wrappers and bottles in the sand.

Over-tourism creates over-population and is so bad, it’s not all about welcoming and indulging visitors now.

It’s about protecting our city, our people, our beaches, open air venues and parks.

We need an army of litter wardens issuing on-the spot fines to locals and tourists.

We need city stewards who stop and fine dafties who amble across roads ignoring lights or step into traffic lanes to take photos and selfies with a castle in the background, risking their own and others’ lives.

A higher proposed tourist tax, a ban on Airbnbs, fines for misbehaviour, a major council cut-back on tourist-attracting events, a closure of tacky “souvenir” shops, more genuinely Scottish (that is, expensive) products – anything to reduce over-tourism to a manageable level and turn Edinburgh into a high-quality, luxury destination, is what we need to save our World Heritage city .