Tourism chiefs on alert over impact of virus on Edinburgh
Alice He: expects a decrease in tourists (pic: Terry Murden)
Tourism chief Donald Emslie said there was “understandable concern” over the impact of the coronavirus on Edinburgh and beyond, but said there was no cause for alarm.
Mr Emslie, new chairman of the Edinburgh Tourism Action Group (ETAG), said it was likely that a prolonged outbreak of the virus would see a dip in visitors from China.
But it was important to maintain a dialogue with all parties and offer reassurances.
Edinburgh saw a 46% surge in visitors from China last year to 200,000 on the back of the China Ready Initiative.
“So far it [coronavirus] is not a problem, but clearly it is on our agenda,” said Mr Emslie, speaking ahead of the launch of ETAG’s 2030 strategy.
Donald Emslie: ‘it is on our agenda’ (pic: Terry Murden)
“All we can do is continue to talk to the Chinese community. The most important thing is that the disease has not reached Scotland.”
Mr Emslie’s comments came ahead of the new coronavirus being declared a global emergency by the World Health Organisation.
A number of visitors to Edinburgh were tested last week but were given the all-clear.
Alice He, social media manager for ETAG and the China Ready Initiative, said the group was issuing a statement, expressing Edinburgh’s solidarity with the Chinese, millions of whom are trapped in their home cities, unable to travel.
Ms He, who is from Chibi in Hubei province, source of the virus, said her family was due to visit her in the summer. “I hope it is over by then, we will just have to wait,” she said.
She added that the Chinese had to be made aware that they are still welcome in Scotland, though she expected a tailing off.
“I would assume we will see a decrease in tourists. But there is still a huge demand to travel,” she said.
Robin Worsnop, outgoing chairman, told the conference: “My thoughts are with the people of Wuhan” and looked ahead to Chinese tourists continuing to visit Edinburgh when normality returned. “I am confident our city will be at forefront of welcoming them,” he said.
Official figures say the virus has caused 213 deaths, spreading to every Chinese region. The WHO said there had been 98 cases in 18 other countries, but no deaths.
Hundreds of British citizens being flown back to the UK from Wuhan and will be put in quarantine for two weeks on their arrival.
It is believed passengers will be required to sign a contract agreeing to commit to the quarantine period.
Mr Emslie defended the Winter Festival after some criticism over its impact on the city.
He said 2.5m visitors enjoyed the attractions, including 30,000 residents who bought tickets.
“There were no arrests, it was safe, hoteliers had 98% occupancy and Edinburgh retailers bucked the national downward trend,” he said.
“A lot of other cities would would be looking at how we achieved that.
“We need to get some balance into the debate.”