On Edinburgh’s Tourism Strategy

To great fanfare today it was announced that “Edinburgh’s new tourism strategy has now been endorsed by the Council. It moves from promoting growth to focusing on better management of tourism for people, place & environment.”

Which is great. Except it doesn’t.

It is comic in its use of language, its misreading of the situation and its inept proposals.

It has gathered all the people responsible for a strategy for massive growth in tourism into a PR process to continue that policy while calling it something else.

Read it here.

In the Background (3.1) it explains: “Edinburgh 2020 was launched in January 2012 and set out the city’s ambitions for growth in tourism up to 2020.”


“ETAG is the body which has taken forward the new strategy process. ETAG is a partnership between major stakeholders in the city including the Council, Visit Scotland, Scottish Enterprise, Edinburgh Hotels Association and others”.

In other words the bodies who have tourism growth scorched into their DNA are – apparently – leading us into a new strategy to do otherwise.

It is inconceivable that this is true.

In the main report (4.3) it states there will be:

“An explicit shift “from driving growth to managing growth”.

This is linguistic sleight of hand.

The direction of the entire strategy is still on growth. There is no intention whatsoever to alter this.

In 5.2 it states: “A Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) will now be progressed for the Edinburgh 2030 strategy. This will build on the stated commitments within the draft strategy that tourism will proactively contribute to the city’s goal of achieving zero net carbon emissions by 2030 and that a tourism-sector specific programme for this (aligned with the City of Edinburgh Council’s plans) will be developed.”

How is this possible when the entire strategy is based on short-haul flights into Edinburgh Airport?

Further it states in a table of Next Steps (Table 2, page 6):

“Specific requests were made for improvements in managing tourism in local areas e.g. manging the arrival and departure of cruise passengers at South Queensferry.”

and suggests:

“The ideas for local placemaking will be considered as part of the development of the action plan to support delivery of the strategy. Where local action is required, these will be passed on to the appropriate Council team to progress e.g. High Street improvements and traffic management plans in South Queensferry.”

Yet it’s been estimated that daily emissions of cruise ships same as one million cars [see report here].

This is an example of how the strategy is littered with useless and misleading ameliorative actions.

On page 11 the document states:

“Long-term projections show that tourism demand in Edinburgh will increase.”

As if by magic?

“Our tourism supply is growing too; hotels are under construction; transport connections are improving, the festivals are increasingly popular and developments such as the St James Quarter and Edinburgh’s Waterfront will create new reasons to visit the city.”

This is presented as if these developments have just happened by chance.

“Like its peers the city has traditionally focussed 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.”

Again this is presented as if tourism growth is just a sort of accident, or a natural process, rather than the deliberate strategy of all the people who are ‘stakeholders’ in this strategy.

They continue:

“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 the future.”

This is completely vague and meaningless nonsense.

Here’s the reality.

Edinburgh, like other cities is awash with overtourism

It is a phenomenon that has defined and disfigured the city, boosting an existing housing crisis, accelerating social cleansing and gentrification and drives the climate crisis.

This report does nothing to offset these trends.

What we need is: action to create a degrowth in tourism; a new strategy aimed at the residents and citizens of Edinburgh; a city-wide consultation on how to re-imagine Edinburgh; a radical plan to create zero-carbon transport routes; an urgent plan to reduce flights and cruise liners; and an investigation into who is responsible for the current shambles.

CITIZEN will be organising a conference on Overtourism later on the year to address these needs.

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