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Tourism is one of the fastest growing sectors in the world and contributes significantly to job creation and economical sustainability of countries. Depending on how well it is managed and organized, it can help host communities develop and spread, not only on an economical but also on a cultural level, by sharing their own customs and traditions with others, encouraging mutual understanding between countries and helping in expanding their trade opportunities. That, however, creates a lot of competition between countries in trying to promote themselves as effectively as possible. They need to continuously improve and develop their marketing strategies and their facilities to attract and cater to as large an amount of people as possible in hopes of giving them an unforgettable experience that will encourage them to eventually come back and in sharing their experiences with others, bring in even more visitors. Technology has become a major part of this whole process. From helping in choosing the destination, to arranging the travel procedures and the activities that we will engage with when we arrive there, navigating us through a variety of practical problems like facilities for accommodation, catering and retail and sharing the quality of all these experiences online to help other potential visitors shape a better opinion of the place. How do we then evaluate properly the quality of the destination? In his paper, Buhalis provides the framework of ‘’six As’’ to identify the requirements the destinations need to ensure the best possible experience for their visitors. Those requirements vary, from choosing the attractions and activities, which must be appealing to a variety of target markets, to assessing the local amenities and ancillary services, as well as their accessibility through different means of transport and travel packets that can provide all those to attract visitors (Buhalis, 2000).In this essay, I will evaluate the city of Edinburgh as a potential leisure destination, while taking in consideration these factors considering both domestic and international visitors.
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According to the data provided in the report ‘Edinburgh by Numbers’, we can see an up to date report of the annual numbers tourism in Edinburgh involves, in order to get a better understanding of the audience of a major part of the leisure sector and the activities they are involved in. The number of visits in Edinburgh and The Lothians for 2016 was 2.53 million in domestic and 1.73 million in overseas trips, generating about £1.5 billion in total, with 71% of overseas visitors visiting Edinburgh on holiday, surpassing Glasgow and London (Council, 2018) The charts also provide information on the most popular attractions with The National Museum of Scotland taking the first place. The museum attracted about 1.84 million visitors in 2017 and its collaborative work with other museums through organisations like The American foundation For National Museums Scotland, along with touring exhibitions, draw the attention of many international visitors as well as local ones. The museum aims to be more heavily funded by memberships and sponsors to secure a substantial non-government income to ensure longevity and sustain its collections and facilities. It has a wide audience of all ages and interests, with exhibits from nature, art, design and fashion and science and technology (Anon., 2017)It is also using its digital platform to allow access to even more individuals. Edinburgh castle is the second most popular attraction, with over 2 million visitors per year. It offers guided tours in many languages for international audiences, which are part of the package when you buy a ticket, as well as discounts for Historic Scotland Members and Explorer Pass holders to appeal to a variety of audiences (Anon., 2018). Visits to castles and other monuments of cultural heritage are one of the most important parts of leisure and provide a chance for locals to come in touch with their country’s history, while at the same time giving international visitors insight on a different culture’s traditions. It is therefore normal that the visit is going to have a different impact depending on the cultural background of the individual and that can play a significant role in the overall experience. As tourism to various heritage sites increases, the relationship between the interpretation and the satisfaction of visitors becomes crucial, which creates implications for management practice. For example, ensuring interpretation delivered by Castle guides remains consistent across all staff and that guided tours remain representative of developments in best practices of guided interpretation should be a priority (M & Ingrid, 2018). the same research, the results also showed that visitors responded more positively to using their own interpretations to the guides they were given: self-provided interpretation media identify highlights and aspects satisfying for the author or previous visitors. In turn, this may positively inﬂuence the satisfaction level of visitors who use the guidebook, or related self-provided media, as their primary source of interpretation. We can therefore assume that the success of the site depends on a combination of good organisation that showcases the history of the site, whilst at the same time engages with the experience of the individual and encourages people of all cultural backgrounds to engage on a personal level with the attraction.
Edinburgh also attracts a large number of visitors every year that attend the local festivals and events that appeal both to the domestic and the international audience. The biggest event is the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. In 2017 The Edinburgh Festival Fringe had around 2.7 million attendees in 2017. 61% of attendees to the Fringe were international, that is coming from outside of Scotland (Anon., 2017).There, everyone has the ability to participate in the festival not only as a spectator but also as a performer. As there is no committee to decide who can participate as a performer, the audience have the ability to be an active part of the event. It gives the opportunity to creative people from all over the world to come together and exchange opinions, as well as the ability to discover new talented artists. As many other societies, they rely mostly on patrons and the audience to make ends meet. The festival has over 250 events per day, varying from music shows, to parades and plays, therefore it attracts a variety of ages. It has changing places in its facilities and offers sensory backpacks for individuals with autism, contributing to the inclusiveness of the event. Quieter areas and accessible stages are also amongst the amenities it offers to ensure a better experience. The name ‘Edinburgh Festival City’ is then justified as there are more than 3.000 events going on every year and there is a variety of travelling packages that offer trip plans, with accommodation, catering and transportation and chances to explore many famous tourist attractions, which plays a major role in the increasing amount of visitors from all around the world, at all times of the year. There are however dangers in branding a destination through events. The way in which they are marketed can seriously affect the value of the destination brand, therefore, although events are increasingly used to add to the uniqueness of the destination, there is risk into how that can be done. At its core, city branding management must strive to understand the social dynamics of creativity at individual, group, organisation and inter-organisation levels because innovation transcends organisational boundaries. This management of cross-level interaction requires careful orchestration, including adequate resourcing, an appropriate culture and effective leadership, to reduce risk and stimulate innovation (Taylor, et al., 2018). The role of creative, communicative team members to retain those qualities is also crucial. The most challenging aspect of this method is combining all those elements under the care of a proper leader, while also thinking about the specific organisational culture of each country and the political context that surrounds it. If that fails to be done, the branding can seem inorganic and forced, bringing opposite results than intended. It is crucial that all the events are adapted to the way each country is structured and follow its core social and cultural values, while also adapting to the needs of an ever-growing global competitive market.
Accommodation is one of the most important factors in considering the value of a leisure destination and it is one that can also create a big amount of problems for the local population. Hotels in Edinburgh boasted an occupancy rate of 85% – an increase of 1.8% on the previous year (Duncanson, 2018).However, there are cases where accommodation affects the locals for the worse. A prime example of that is Airbnb, which gets even more pressing during festival periods. With Edinburgh facing a problem balancing residential and holiday accommodation, locals being disrupted by visitors and the negative impact on cultural heritage, there are many drawbacks to the existence of Airbnb rooms, but as the local economy is mainly sustained by tourism, there is also a great amount of profit along with it (Norton, 2018). When thinking about evaluating an aspect of the destination it is also important to take into consideration its long-term effects on the community, the environment and the other businesses. The private sector is a key aspect of leisure, as it includes accommodation providers, transport companies, attractions and major destination management companies that organise those trips. Given that every tourism destination relies on a well-functioning society, a healthy environment and a stable economy, the private sector has a large role to play in ensuring all three of these conditions. Businesses must aim to generate profit, take care of the environment they operate in, and create a positive social impact (Anon., 2017). To ensure the appeal of the destination for a prolonged amount of time, it is important to take care of the special needs of every country with respect to the environment and avoiding distorting important cultural aspects in order to maintain authenticity, which will show positive results for both local and international visitors.
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In conclusion, Edinburgh is one of the most popular domestic and international destinations in the UK because of the quality and variety of its attractions and facilities. The framework of ‘’Six As’’ can prove useful in assessing some examples of attractions. The National Museum of Scotland and Edinburgh Castle are the two most popular attractions in the city and appeal to a variety of people. From locals who want to explore their city and learn about their culture more in depth, to international visitors wishing to get in touch with the different culture, both groups can gain valuable experiences from their visit. The sites are dependent on how effective the facilities in and around them are. The available travelling packets can also affect the popularity of those destinations. Regarding attractions like festivals that bring in a considerable number of visitors, as they are a chance for people to come together to share a common interest, they require a lot of effort and planning from both the societies that organise them to the city that benefits from them. They are why Edinburgh has been branded as the ‘’Festival City’’, which has proven to be an efficient branding plan as it attracts more and more visitors every year around the time of those festivals, making it a competitive leisure destination. There is however danger when branding a destination, as many variants like proper leadership, management along with government regulations can bring in opposite results. For example, accommodation is a vital part of the leisure sector, yet private businesses can cause unexpected problems to other facilities and harm the city itself. To ensure the quality of the destination in the future, there needs to be efficient management and co-operation between leisure businesses and the community they are a part of.
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