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Chicken or Goose?

Victor and Arianna crop

Good morning lovely people,

Our eldest daughter has a new job.  She’s a dancer and is touring around Britain from Aberdeen to High Wycome and almost everywhere in between. She’s been living largely on omelettes and tinned tuna. In her spare time she could write a Lonely Planet’s Guide to single dining. Reports of empty shops, vagrancy and homelessness have been visible to her young eyes. What’s struck her the most, apart from how difficult it is to eat healthily from a hotel room, is just how wonderful her home town of Edinburgh is.

Of course we have challenges. Homelessness in the city has risen by a third fuelled by a lack of affordable housing. Tenants largely being evicted from council and private rented accommodation. Thankfully, rough sleeping in the city has fallen. Work supported by organisations like Shelter, Streetworks and the Cyrenians. Sad statistics but overall our vibrant city surely is a positive not a negative influence?

With its picture perfect castle, gorgeous gardens and quirky neighbourhoods, Edinburgh is home to so much more than meets the eye. Off season it serves as the gateway to the rest of Scotland, its international airport can take you almost anywhere but in August why would you want to be anywhere else – unless you’re Greta…

What other city can celebrate Fringe, International, Book and many other festivals plus a Military Tattoo firing off the Castle? I love it and I’ll challenge anyone not to do the same.

Residents may complain of too many people and the loss of their peace and quiet. Peace and quiet doesn’t pay the bills. Yes travelling around is slightly trickier than it usually is but wouldn’t we all prefer a busy eclectic exciting city than the ghost town we experienced in 2020. The Festivals allow us to invest long term in our business and our people. I’ll do anything to avoid the hell of the pandemic. We’ve just employed 30 seasonal team members to support our core team over August. It’s a mutually beneficial arrangement. Short term contracts for people looking for short term work who take the pressure of the full time team, when we are busiest. The model the city has developed is tied strongly to the festivals.  Good or bad it’s supporting a very large community.

The hard work of August undoubtedly keeps us going for the rest of the year.  The value of what it brings can’t be underestimated. The selection of hotels, restaurants, shops and theatres that create jobs all year round is hugely supported by the Festivals. We feel blessed that our business is based in Edinburgh.

High street vacancies in Scotland were at 15.6% last quarter with Business Rates at a 24 year high. Our town centres have never struggled as much. They need all the help they can get to keep them going. Hearing iconic venues such as Chardon d’Or closing in Glasgow shows that even our biggest city hasn’t been immune to the challenges. Edinburgh’s (council and residents) learnings must be not to shoot this golden goose that’s keeping our city alive.

There is much talk of a Visitor Levy being introduced, probably a percentage of the final accommodation bill. At present this wouldn’t be chargeable to the thousands of cruise ship day trippers docking in the Firth. Which visitor has the higher environmental impact? Are we actually focusing the negative impact of tourism in the right place?

Tourism is part of our economic future whether we like it or not. Given how many festival tickets are sold to Edinburgh residents, I think we’re in safe hands anyway. Some argue that tourism is the cause of many of the city’s problems, including homelessness. Affordable housing needs to be developed but we also need a vibrant economy supporting jobs. Higher interest rates announced again on Thursday. If there was ever a stick that was being used to beat, there it is. The Bank of England is saying housing prices are cooling, maybe this will free up stock for those who live and work in our cities. Maybe, but only if they can afford the repayments! Chicken or goose egg, who knows the answer.

This is a big month for my baby and our restaurant newbies. It’s great to have youth on their side with the grey hair / no hair supporting them in the background.

Looking forward to seeing many of you who visit just for the Festivals. We’re ready, excited and very much looking forward to welcoming you all.

Keep well and thank you as always

Carina

PS No 2 daughter has returned from Italy with her fathers phone. The taxi driver handed it into a newsagent who phoned Victor on his emergency number. Rome, you’re wonderful too!

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