My Column

Fringe needs rooms to grow for all

  • Date: Monday 5th August 2019
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Last week marked the beginning of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe where the capital is completely taken over by comedy, theatre and more, attracting visitors near and far.

It’s one of the world’s largest art festivals and I think it’s fair to say we don’t realise how lucky we are to have it on our doorstep.

Last August saw 3,548 shows take place throughout the Fringe in 317 venues across Edinburgh – an incredible number of performers, venues and visitors.

And each and every year this number goes up with the Festival getting bigger and better.

For the businesses within the city, this is great news.

It’s no surprise that bars, restaurants, shops and hotels all benefit from this yearly occasion which sees their footfall and profits soar. For the small, local businesses in particular this is incredible, bringing in an influx of customers rarely seen at other times of year.

However for people making the journey to see the shows, prices are high throughout the month of August. And it’s not just those visiting the Fringe who are having to shell out a fortune.

It’s getting incredibly expensive for performers and artists, who are coming from over 50 different countries to take part, having to shell out considerable amounts for accommodation.

So it’s no wonder the Festival itself is calling on businesses to offer discounts to make it more manageable for performers.

Chief Executive Shona McCarthy is asking hotels, cafes, bars and restaurants to avoid hiking their prices up.

And she says the single biggest barrier to taking part in the Festival, even if a venue has signed an artist, is accommodation.

Last year, the Festival is believed to have generated over £200million for our economy which got me thinking – should we be funnelling some of this back into the festival itself, ensuring it remains as affordable as possible?

Edinburgh already has somewhat of a reputation for being expensive – indeed one interesting study claims drinkers in Edinburgh are paying more than anywhere else in Scotland.  So with high Fringe prices lumped on top it means a visit can cost a fortune for some.

To be fair though, for many businesses and the hotel industry in particular, prices do fluctuate in line with seasonal demand and this is the norm.

So while prices may be high during the Festival they’ll likely be much lower at other times, and from a business perspective you could argue this balances out. It creates as sustainable model for businesses that allows them to support quieter months.

But it would still be brilliant to see hotels in the city offering special discounts to performers.  Even if every hotel offered the odd complimentary room or discount, the collective effort could ease pressure on artists.

For those companies that can afford to do it, it would be a great investment in the Fringe.

After all, the artists are what make the festival what it is and without their creativity and energy, we wouldn’t have one of the most reputable festivals in the world.  It would be a great way of supporting the talent that is ultimately bringing business to the city.

We have a month full of laughs ahead of us and I highly recommend a visit to the Fringe, and if you’re lucky enough to get good weather it makes for a brilliant summer day out. 

 

 

SIDE

There’s plans to fix the Cairngorm Mountain Railway, following claims it will cost less than removing and scrapping it.

The UK’s highest railway has been out of action since October last year due to structural problems.

But now Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE), which also owns the Cairngorm Mountain ski centre, says it has an indicative cost for fixing it.

It’s very welcome news, as the Cairngorms are vital for bringing in tourists to Scotland. In fact, more people come to ski in the Cairngorms than at any other resort in the UK.

All going well, HIE reckons the railway could even be operational again by the end of next year.

Built at a cost of £26m and opened in 2001, the railway connects a base station with a restaurant 1,097m (3,599ft) up Cairngorm Mountain, near Aviemore.

Thousands of people use it, including skiers and snowboarders to access slopes.

As of 2018 it was estimated that the Cairngorms National Park received 1.8 million visitors each year. The majority of visitors are domestic, with 25 per cent coming from elsewhere in the UK, and 21 per cent from other countries.

In my opinion, these figures should not be taken lightly or for granted.

I’m glad repairing the railway will cost less than removing it. I would hate to see it go because keeping it will have an invaluable benefit to Scottish tourism and the wider economy.

We must do all we can to protect Cairngorms National Park and all of its assets.

 

LAUGH

You can now PAY to spend a night in jail... and it has never sounded more appealing.

A former courthouse and jail building in Edinburgh’s Parliament Square has been repurposed as a boutique hostel.

As bizarre as it sounds, the A-listed building off the Royal Mile has been kitted out with 200 pod beds and 12 private ‘cell’ rooms over five floors.

The new capsule hotel called The Court officially welcomed its first guests (or should I say inmates?) on Friday.

Hauntingly, the building originally contained both holding cells and courtroom facilities, including the former district court.

So if you’re out on a night out in Edinburgh and end up crashing out there, just be careful about how you deliver the news to your partner.

 

WEEP

The relaunched Caledonian Sleeper has been somewhat of a let-down after a series of problems.

But none as significant as the one that occurred on Thursday. The emergency brake had to be applied after the Northbound Lowlander overshot the platform at Edinburgh Waverley.

As the Rail Accident Investigation Branch gathers evidence, TSSA union general secretary didn’t mince his words, reportedly saying that nobody should ‘play fast and loose with faulty brakes’.

And most significantly, he called for the entire Sleeper fleet to be grounded until it’s known what went wrong.

It’s a disappointing start for a service that was hotly anticipated, and was expected to inject some glamour and excitement into rail travel between Scotland and London.

But safety comes first. Let’s hope the issues as resolved and the £150million refurbishment eventually pays off.

 

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