More money needed says Edinburgh

By | Category: Travel rumblings
Edinburgh Fringe

last year’s fringe crowds

It is festival time in Edinburgh. According to the Scottish culture minister, Fiona Hyslop, the Edinburgh festivals (there are 12 throughout the year) attract 4 million visitors each year and hundreds of millions of pounds. So why does Edinburgh council want a tourism levy?

Running festivals can be expensive so the suggestion is that Edinburgh needs that extra cash. It already spends 2.4% of its revenue on events and the suggestion is that it wants to increase this. Hand-in hand though is that there is cross-party support on the council in Edinburgh for the concept of a tourist levy according to Sarah Boyack who raised it during a debate on culture and festivals in the Scottish Parliament last week. No MSP actually supported this call but nobody spoke against it either. But in the Economy Energy and Tourisma commitee meeting this week as well, it was said that the festivals bring in £261 million pa and support 30,000 plus jobs so is it run on a business sense. When the financing was raised by commitee member, Joan McAlpine, the representatives didn’t really answer the questions so how the monies given and raised were left vague.

There are well over 200 festivals a year in Scotland, Colin Keir saying in the debate that Scotland is a nation of festivals but probably the most well-known is the Edinburgh Festival and its fringe. The Edinburgh Tattoo brings in an additional 220,000 visitors (including some, this year, who were over from the Virginia Arts Festival in the US) and is televised around the world giving the city valuable publicity shots that it could never ever afford

From Ms. Hyslop came a few statistics. Just the festivals in Edinburgh alone bring more than 25,000 international artists and those millions I mentioned earlier with 77% of them coming from outside Scotland. She also said the festivals made visitors more likely to visit Edinburgh again in the future. Certainly Tim Vine will return having picked up the Dave comedy award for a second time with his Hoover joke!

But back to the council and it’s levy. Remember that it was this council that tried to introduce an accommodation bed tax a few years ago. It is either greedy given the number of visitors that come to the city, cant balance the books or we –as visitors – aren’t spending enough when we go to cover the costs of the festivals and the additional strains that puts on the city like additional street cleaning and rubbish collection.

Originally the festival was placed in July and August to encourage visitors. In Germany, Nuremberg does the same thing because it wants to fill beds restaurants and shops at a time when it has few business visitors. How different is this from Edinburgh? Yet hotels there give August discounts to stay there and the festivals are free the city recouping much of its costs from the additional spending in the economy.

Maybe rather than soaking visitors, Edinburgh should study the Nuremberg example whilst remembering that there comes a point where visitors call time on costs. Hotels are already pricey and people stay outside and commute in during in August. Does the council want to kill the golden goose or at least, injure it?




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