Research has shown there are nearly 450 tourists for every 100 residents in Edinburgh, sparking calls for a review on whether the Capital needs to consider capping the growth of the tourism industry.
The figures, compiled by ESTA – the Electronic System for Travel Authorization for visitors to the United States – from a number of sources, are based on UN population numbers plus UK visitor statistics.
Edinburgh has the fourth highest ratio of tourists to locals in the world after Miami, Las Vegas and Dubai, and sits well above 14th placed London.
Top of the list Miami sees 1,641 tourists for every 100 locals, with Edinburgh welcoming 445 visitors for every 100 residents.
The figures have led to calls for Edinburgh City Council to consider whether infinite growth in tourism is sustainable.
They were compiled from visitors figures across 2018 with Edinburgh’s peak occurring in late Summer each year during the Festival and Festival Fringe.
Conservative councillor Jo Mowat who represents the city centre ward said that questions should be asked in the council’s upcoming tourism strategy about whether continued growth would be beneficial.
She said: “[The figures] are quite sobering.
“The whole conversation is about how we manage an industry that is important to the city and whether it is being allowing to overwhelm the city and these figures give us an additional imperative to look more closely at that and make some quite difficult strategic decisions.
“It links to our climate strategy as well. Is it feasible to rely on a tourist industry that relies on higher numbers through the airport or should we be looking at rail and land transport?
“Do we say that numbers will continue to grow or say that the numbers are at the right level?
“That needs to be a question that we are asking ourselves.”
More evidence for 'tourist tax'
City council leader Adam McVey said the numbers provide further evidence for the introduction of a tourist tax, something opponents are worried could negatively impact the industry or lead to the reduction in the block grant to the council.
He said: “Edinburgh’s a small city which has made it big on the world stage, widely recognised as host to some of the best events on the planet, an enviable place to live, work and study, home to breath-taking architecture and scenery and breakthroughs in science, tech and culture.
“It makes complete sense, then, that so many visitors want to sample all that makes Edinburgh the inspiring place it is.
“These figures aren’t all that surprising and back up what we’ve been saying for some time.
“The success of our visitor offering has led us to develop a robust and fair tourist tax plan which has the backing of residents and will allow visitors to pay a little back to the city.
“The numbers of people visiting has also driven our push for regulatory powers of short-term lets, which are now in sight.
“Tourism is an important topic of conversation for our city right now and we’re working positively with partners and stakeholders on a new 10 year plan to enhance Edinburgh’s management of the impacts of high visitor footfall. Residents’ feedback will be absolutely central to this plan.”