Saturday, 23 April 2016

WELCOME TO EDINBURGH. It is the 7th June 2020

"the transformation of Edinburgh from a cosmopolitan urban community to a commodified real estate market with tourism feeding the insatiable day-to-day need for revenue"

Welcome to Edinburgh.

It is the 7th June 2020 and the tourism season has started. Special tourism trains and cheap packaged air flights feed the dense cluster of budget hotels, student accommodation and serviced apartments that have taken over the Old Town and extended deep into the New Town. Hoteliers are starting to see a shift from a predominantly weekend influx of tourists that feast on the night culture to an influx more evenly spread across the week. The Grassmarket is closed to traffic and, during the summer months, has nightly open air concerts. The first of the 34 festivals that occur over the 3 months June, July and August has just finished. It was the third year that the Gin Festival had been held and the week long event was well attended.

There have been many developments since planning permission was given to convert the Royal High School into a hotel. It opened as a quality hotel in 2018, but failed to achieve break-even occupancy and has since become a budget hotel, with its rooms split into two to increase its capacity. Other developments have seen Register House, the India Buildings and Kings Stables converted in six budget hotels with 2,850 rooms. The City Chambers has been converted into serviced apartments. The Palace has built a serviced accommodation wing to tap into Edinburgh's need for visitor overnight accommodation. The Scottish Parliament has moved to a new building in Glasgow, to escape tourism, with ongoing discussions about what to do with the existing, now vacant, building. Proposals include converting it into a tartan theme park. Other spaces in the Old and New Towns have been  created with the demolition of a number of fine listed buildings, into which more hotels, student accommodation and serviced apartments have been placed. The 28 storey hotel block in Ocean Terminal has been matched by the 29 storey, so called, 'Turd' Hotel, which was given permission to extend its height. It forms the centre-piece for the redeveloped St James Centre, which opened in 2019. However, many of its retail units have not been taken up. This pattern can be seen in other developments, e.g. Caltongate and Haymarket. Indeed, retailing has been transformed.

Many of the retailers in the High Street have folded, due to dwindling trade and Princes Street has become the main place to buy cheap tartan kilts and other souvenirs, catering for the thriving hen-stag night market.  A number of cheap large super pubs have opened, leading to closure of some of the more traditional pubs. The upper end of retailers have moved to Glasgow. To add, the disappearance of the community in the Old and New Towns has led to the closure of amenities to support them, in particular newsagents and corner shops. Several centrally located schools have also closed due to the absence of local community, with planning permission for them to be converted into student accommodation. Museums and Art Galleries  only open three days a week due to the poor footfall. Visitors seem more interested in the more pleasurable pursuits of drink and food, with the young coming for the festivals. Edinburgh is the Capital of Night Culture.

A spokesperson for the marketing organisation "Come to Party Edinburgh" states: "since Councillors decided to abandon planning restrictions in 2016, Edinburgh has become a 24/7 party destination, perhaps the first of its kind in the world. This has done wonders for local investment, attracting lots of international developers to provide accommodation and food-drink offerings. The return on the real estate investment in Edinburgh is one of the best in Europe and offsets any losses due to seasonal downturns. Irrespective, the festivals have really blossomed. Edinburgh has reached its zenith". However, Mriad Clumbra, a local business man comments about another side to this growth, that, since the demise of many local businesses, the local Chambers of Business has closed its doors, unable to enrol enough members.