Here is a summary of a presentation given by Trust member Jim Johnson to a conference in Old Montreal in 1994.

Based on his experience of the Old Town, it raises the question of how the City of Edinburgh approach to cultural tourism has developed in the last 20 years – and can it still learn from any of the lessons set out below?

Definition of ‘cultural tourists’: Cultural tourists leave a historic city knowing more about the city than they did previously and having had their eyes opened to a greater appreciation of the cultural values embodied in it.

This definition puts the responsibility onto the ‘hosts’ not the visitors; the ‘host’ has to manage and structure the interpretation of the historic area.


Five Lessons in Encouraging Cultural Tourism – based on experience in the Old Town of Edinburgh

Lesson 1    

Make the most of your assets by:    

(a)    Careful conservation/restoration of historic structures.    

(b)    Ensuring high quality new buildings which respect (but do not copy) the old.     

(c)    Promote understanding of the heritage – exhibitions, publications, etc.    

(d)    The history of local people, both famous and infamous, is as important as the history of the buildings.    

(e)    Make the best of the climate.    

(f)    Manage the public spaces to the standard of a shopping mall – they should be well maintained, clean, well lit and safe.

Lesson 2    

Move people efficiently    

(a)     Reduce the impact of heavy traffic in historic areas.  Tourist coaches are a special problem and should be banned if possible.    

(b)    Encourage tourists to walk – not only do they see and appreciate the city better but they also stay longer and spend more in local shops.

Lesson 3    

Strengthen and broaden the range of attractions    

(a)    Increase the number and range of attractions to tourists, but only if they meet three criteria:
        i.   They are of interest to locals as well as visitors.
        ii.   They are relevant to the city's heritage.
        iii.   They regenerate the environment by using derelict buildings or filling  gap sites. 

(b)    Promote temporary attractions such as Festivals, but ensure local community involvement.

Lesson 4  

Encourage good quality shopping    

(a)    Cultivate small speciality shops which attract both tourists and local inhabitants.    

(b)    Improve the appearance of shops – by grants, tax concessions, shopfront design guidelines, etc.  (Modern shopfronts too often deface historic buildings).

Lesson 5    

Create a lively city    

(a)    Build up the residential population – essential to have a living city, not a  museum.    

(b)    Restaurants, bars and clubs are to be encouraged, but a balance must be kept with the needs of residents (for sleep!).    

(c)    Enliven the hours of darkness (important in northerly cities) by illuminating buildings and temporary festivals of light.