Uniformed street ambassadors will guide tourists to the best places to visit under new plan for Edinburgh's Old Town

UNIFORMED ambassadors could take to the streets of the Old Town to guide tourists to the best places to visit under proposals which businesses in the area will be asked to vote on next month.

Monday, 7th October 2019, 7:07 am
Ambassadors would be on hand to welcome visitors - perhaps in their own language - and point them to the best places to visit.

Other ideas include improved lighting, extra street cleaning and graffiti clearing and information-sharing between retailers in a bid to combat shop-lifting.

The proposals come from Original Edinburgh, the group formed to promote the designation of the historic heart of the Capital as a Business Improvement District (BID).

Their plan involves a package of investment initiatives worth nearly £4 million over five years.

James McGregor, chair of Original Edinburgh, hopes fellow businesses will back the BID plans in a ballot next month.

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The street ambassadors idea is already in operation in several cities across the UK, where volunteers or paid employees proactively offer help to visitors, handing out maps, answering queries and pointing them to where they want to go.

James McGregor, Chair of Original Edinburgh and owner of the Royal McGregor Whisky Bar and Restaurant, said the Old Town already enjoyed a high footfall, the problem was managing it.

“For example, shops in the Canongate might not be getting the traffic they would like so the ambassadors might point out to visitors they could go down towards Holyrood and it wouldn’t be so crowded.”

He said the ambassadors could also offer advice on places to visit and ideally be able to speak to international visitors in their own language.

Original Edinburgh says improved lighting and more street dressing - with hanging baskets and floral arrangements - would help make the area safer and more attractive.

The enhanced street cleaning and graffiti removal within 24 hours would be on top of the cleansing services provided by the council.

And the anti-shoplifting initiative would be based on a similar scheme run by Essential Edinburgh, the BID covering Princes Street and the New Town.

A total of 677 businesses will be entitled to vote in the ballot at the end of November on whether to go for an Old Town BID, which would involve all businesses in the area paying an annual levy to finance the projects and other promotions.

Mr McGregor said: “As someone who has been running businesses in the Old Town for twenty years, I’m delighted the business community is coming together to launch this ambitious plan for our local area.

“Working together with the local community, we can make improvements far beyond what can be delivered by the council and for the benefit of everyone; businesses, residents and visitors alike. The strength of the BID model is we know it works.

Essential Edinburgh had created nearly £24m in economic benefit over five years, he said.

“We’ve been working on this project for nearly three years now, and engaged hundreds of businesses about the issues and opportunities they feel need to be addressed to help the area flourish.”

Andrew McRae, of gift shop Museum Context, said a BID allowed businesses to invest collectively in the local economy. “By pooling and sharing resources, we can promote and market the Old Town to a much more significant degree than if we were all to continue to work individually.”