Friends and relatives of tourism and event workers in Edinburgh are being urged to help safeguard the future of the sector – in the face of claims that its world heritage status is at risk from “overtourism” and concerns that many local residents have turned against the industry.
A rallying call has been issued by the main tourism body for the city in a bid to ensure businesses, employees and their dependents have their say in an ongoing drive to set a new long-term direction for the industry.
The city’s tourism sector supports 33,000 jobs and is worth around £1.5 billion to the economy, with the number of overnight visitors soaring by almost a third in recent years, to around 4.3 million.
However the Scottish capital was named alongside Amsterdam, Rome, Venice and Barcelona in a list of "places that can no longer cope with their own popularity."
Earlier in the year a new campaign, Citizen, was launched to “defend” the city against overtourism, gentrification, the privatisation of public space and a “rampant growth model.”
A draft blueprint drawn up by the Edinburgh Tourism Action Group and the local authority, which is currently out for public consultation, suggests that it is inevitable the city will see tourism demand grow in future.
However key aims for the future of the industry include ensuring tourism developments “ contribute to the quality of life for local people,” that the city’s heritage is “cherished and cared for” and that Edinburgh retains its authenticity as a ‘living, working’ city.
ETAG has told its members and supporters that while the industry’s success had created “some new challenges and the need for some new thinking” it is “essential that you make your voice heard.”
Donald Emslie, acting chair of ETAG said: “Edinburgh’s tourism sector creates opportunities for people from across our communities, upskilling our workforce and attracting talent from all over the world.
“Tourism also supports a huge and varied supply chain touching many different sectors in the city and beyond. There is no doubt that ‘tourism is everyone’s business’ and therefore we urge everyone to make their views known.”
Edinburgh World Heritage director Adam Wilkinson said: “We will certainly encourage our followers and supporters to complete the consultation to ensure balanced feedback is received.
“The strategy is a marked departure from the previous one, and is now focused on managing tourism responsibly versus simply driving growth. At its heart it is a focus on place, and people.
“Of course, for the new strategy to be more than a paper exercise it will require investment in people and financial resources to truly enable change.”
Terry Levinthal, director of heritage body the Cockburn Association, said: ““We have no problem with ETAG raising the importance of this consultation with members, although as authors of it, they do have a slight conflict of interest."