Blueprint for future of Edinburgh tourism to tackle overcrowded hotspots and ‘nuisance’

A blueprint for the future of tourism in Edinburgh to rebuild the support of local people will prioritise protecting its historic environment, tackling overcrowding hotspots, scrutinising new developments, clamping down on pollution from tour coaches and urging visitors to head to new “destinations” at Haymarket, the Waterfront and the Forth bridges.

Tuesday, 5th November 2019, 8:01 am
Tourism chiefs want to see a move away from overcrowded hotspots. Picture: PA

A strategy drawn up by the city council and the industry calls for Edinburgh’s heritage to be “cherished and cared for as a fundamental aspect of the city’s character”.

It also states that new tourism-related developments should “contribute to the quality of life for local people”.

A draft ten-year vision, on which the public is being asked for input, insists Edinburgh must remain an authentic “living, working city with a reasonable balance between tourism and other economic activity”.

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A key pledge is to “recognise the rights of local residents to live in a city that works well, offers a good standard of living and retains its authentic character”.

Research will be carried out to monitor crowd levels in public spaces and visitor attractions at peak periods, with new management measures drawn up for “spaces that are liable to crowding.”

Action has also been pledged to identify and tackle “nuisance issues” and also measure and mitigate the “invisible burden” of the tourism sector on the city.

The 2030 vision has been drawn up by leading industry bodies and the council after the authority agreed a policy calling for any future strategy to “achieve the right balance between a thriving tourism economy and the quality of life for residents”.

Expected to be adopted early next year, the vision commits the industry to “reduce its burden” on the environment by encouraging visitors to make “climate-friendly choices”.

It states: “Long-term projections show that tourism demand in Edinburgh will increase.

“Our tourism supply is growing too – hotels are under construction, Edinburgh Airport is growing, the festivals are increasingly popular and developments such as the St James Quarter and the Waterfront will create new reasons to visit the city.

“Like its peers, the city has traditionally focused on driving tourism growth. However, in light of what we know about tourism in a growing city, it’s time to adapt our approach by working to make this growth work better for the city.

“It’s also time to recognise that some forms of tourism activity pose more challenges to the city than others and that, in the interests of all, there may be some difficult decisions to be made in future.

“Edinburgh’s best ambassadors are its residents, businesses and visitors. Therefore, we must work across a wide range of areas to ensure that the conversation around tourism in Edinburgh, both in the city and beyond is a positive one.

“We want Edinburgh to be well known for its progressive approach to managing tourism for the good of the environment and local communities, and the quality of the visitor experience.

“A good reputation will encourage visitors to recommend the city to others and return in the future.”

Council leader Adam McVey said: “We’ve worked closely with ETAG to shape a draft tourism strategy for the city, making it mindful of the effect tourism has on many residents.

“When it’s managed right, tourism has a hugely positive impact on our city and our people.

“It is providing 33,000 local jobs and contributing over £1.5 billion to the economy each year. We want to see everyone sharing in that success.

“To achieve that, we need to ensure Edinburgh is a great place for residents, providing fair work and opportunities across the sector.

“Our global visitor appeal is undoubtedly a result of Edinburgh’s unique beauty and heritage, our festivals and cultural vibrancy and the warm welcome we provide. This strategy aims to enhance these elements.

“People increasingly want to visit Edinburgh and experience the real lived experience of what makes our city such an amazing place.

“Our work to date and the strategy that partners will work to needs to put our own residents’ experience front and centre of our efforts in order to meet that challenge. That’s why it’s so important that we hear from residents on these plans.”

Donald Emslie, chair of the Edinburgh Tourism Action Group (ETAG), the main voice of the industry in the city, said: “It’s really important to stress that his is not our strategy - it has been drawn up with the council and other industry bodies.

“Once it is adopted there will be an action plan to deliver some of its ambitions and key priorities.”