Edinburgh residents ‘at heart’ of new tourism strategy amid Airbnb fears

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Edinburgh residents in the city centre are to be put at the heart of a new tourism strategy amid fears Airbnb properties and overcrowding are impacting on people’s day-to-day lives.

The city council is set to outline its own priorities to manage tourism in the Capital following concerns the authority’s agenda does not align with some corners of the tourism industry.

Edinburgh residents in the city centre are to be put at the heart of a new tourism strategy. Picture: Alicia Garcia

Edinburgh residents in the city centre are to be put at the heart of a new tourism strategy. Picture: Alicia Garcia

A 2030 tourism strategy will be drawn up and published at the Edinburgh Tourism Action Group (ETAG) conference next year. It will be led by the tourism industry and supported by the council.

But fears have been raised by members of the council’s housing and economy committee that a balance will have to be struck to ensure residents can continue to enjoy living in the city amid a growing tourism industry.

In the city centre, there are now more homes available as Airbnb-style short term lets than for traditional private rented housing.

Housing and economy convener, Cllr Kate Campbell, said: “Tourism has a significant impact on our city. There are many positives in terms of investment, jobs, and wider economic impact. But there are also challenges, particularly the increasing problem of short term lets, overcrowding at key locations, demand for hotel sites, and a feeling among some that the needs of residents are coming second to those of visitors.

“We are committed to working in partnership to deliver a new tourism strategy for Edinburgh. While we recognise that many of our objectives will align with those of the industry, we will not always have the same priorities.

“The council has a leadership role in shaping major policy for the city, and we will ensure that we are looking at tourism policy from every perspective before it is agreed by the council.”

Conservative city centre Cllr Joanna Mowat has previously called for more of a balance between tourism and residents continuing to enjoy quality standards of living.

She said: “The industry will not all agree. Different parts will have different views on what they need and what they want. We may be saying something and the industry might be saying we can’t support that.

“I hope we will be able to find a middle ground that everyone can agree about because it is an important industry to the city – it supports a lot of jobs.”

SNP Cllr Norman Work, pleaded that the strategy should include the whole of the Capital, and not be “city-centric”.

He added: “One of the areas I represent, Queensferry and Cramond, they feel that they are let down by the council because they see tourism as the city centre and not the outlying areas.”

A call has also been made to use the new strategy as a chance to explain the benefits of tourism to the public more clearly.

Liberal Democrat Cllr Kevin Lang, said: “I really hope we take this process as an opportunity to have a conversation with the people of the city about the value of tourism. Yes there are pressures and it causes hotspots, but I think it’s quite easy to take for granted something because you have always had it.

“I think this adds so much to the economy and culturally. Whilst I think this is about a forward-thinking strategy, I also hope that when we go through this process, we will take it as quite a helpful opportunity to open up the conversation so we can really try to better explain what tourism adds to the city.”