Has growth in tourism become unsustainable?
With, on average, four million visitors each year, the UK’s sixth busiest airport and over 20,000 hotel rooms, Edinburgh is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the UK. The city’s infrastructure is under strain
however, meaning pressure is growing on authorities to align planning to cope. So is Edinburgh too popular? And how will the city manage its ever-increasing tourist numbers?
2 mins to read
Local residents in Edinburgh (and other European cities) are demanding better regulation around Airbnb accommodation. Airbnb listings in Edinburgh have doubled in the past three years, with 11,985 listings and over half a million tourists staying in Airbnb accommodation on their visit. In 2018, Edinburgh city council welcomed a proposed amendment to the Planning Bill that will make it harder for people to turn their homes into short-term lets. Under these new proposals a licence would be required for anyone operating a property for at least 45 days per year. Edinburgh City Council believes that the Airbnb phenomenon has cut the number of homes available for private rent in the city by at least 10%.
However, this increase in Airbnb listings doesn’t seem to have impacted the city’s hotels, with occupancy levels increasing by 1.6, making it the city with the highest hotel occupancy out of all UK cities, and ranking in the top five for RevPAR growth for the past four years. It is expected that there will be a 14.5% increase in new hotel rooms entering the market over the next two years and a total of 8717 rooms have been developed or granted consent since 2007.
One measure being taken to try and improve the over-stretched tourist industry is the new Tourist Tax. Visitors to Edinburgh may soon have to pay £2 a day; this gained strong support in a public consultation with 85% of respondents being in favour. The Transient Visitor Levy (TVL) will be added to the cost of all accommodation for the first week of a visitor’s stay, which Edinburgh City Council estimates will help raise around £14.6m a year. The funds raised by the tax are mainly to be used on the city’s infrastructure, which is currently under strain from the high numbers of tourists, particularly during the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in summer. Can the city accommodate this increase in tourists?
Future Tourist Attractions
One new landmark that is set to shape the city’s tourism in the next few years is the new Johnnie Walker visitor attraction, which has been funded by Diageo. The hope is that this new destination will encourage tourists to stay in the city for their whisky experiences, rather than going further afield and visiting other distilleries. It is expected to create over 160 new jobs and increase tourism spend by £135m.