In recent months there has been frequent media coverage regarding how Edinburgh is suffering, has have other cities such as Amsterdam and Venice, from a new phenomena known as over tourism. Just today an article appeared in The Scotsman newspaper announcing that the City of Edinburgh Council has ordered a root and branch review of Edinburgh’s Christmas due to concerns about its potential negative impacts upon our city.
I have long maintained that tourism historically has never been a major manifesto policy issue for local or central government candidates because citizens are primarily concerned with their own economic welfare, personal safety and security, health care and education for their children, in that order. The reason it has failed to make it to the top of manifesto pledges is that most citizens find tourism irrelevant until they are negatively impacted by it (over crowding, rubbish collection, noise issues). Further, most politicitians choose not to highlight tourism because it may be controversial and that is perhaps how we have reached the tipping point in our city that has required this comprehensive review.
It has always been surprising to me that the tourism and festival sectors have systematically failed to make the effective argument that these sectors help promote a society that improves economic fairness, greater safety and security, a healthier way of life and leads to greater educational opportunities.
The scholar Guy Debord stated that due to increasing modern conditions of production (the industrial and technological revolutions) that all of life presents itself as an immense accumulation of spectacles. Edinburgh and other cities seem to have fallen into this slippery and potentially negative trap.
The way forward for cities such as Edinburgh is through the upcoming root and branch review to engage experts in economic distribution, safety and security, healthcare and education to identify tfor the first time hose natural and normal links between tourism and festivals and a better way of life for the residents of this capital city.
In Malcolm Gladwells book, The Tipping Point, How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference he examines “the moment when an idea, trend, or social behavior crosses a threshold, tips, and spreads like wildfire.” Perhaps now is the time to carefully exmane the the linkages between economic prosperity for all, a safer and more secure society, improved public health and further educational benefits that could be easily derived from our existing and future festivals and events.
When we cross this threshold, once again, Edinburgh, may once again re – gain the powerful wings of reason that were developed during the eighteenth century’s Scottish Enlightenment and soar to even greater heights to serve as a shining to example to other cities who are facing similar challenges.
Rather than automatically seek to diminish or cancel our festive celebrations, we must instead look deeper within the soul of our civic life and see how these spectacles may better create authentic and meaningful connections that fundementally benefits all citizens, now and for many future generations.
I would like to hear your thoughts.