Staycations, localisation, and Edinburgh as a destination: being agile for the community in tourism recovery.

   The Business School

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  Dr L Todd, Prof A Leask  Applications accepted all year round  Self-Funded PhD Students Only

About the Project

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a swift and devastating impact upon Edinburgh’s tourism sector. As Scotland eases from total lockdown, this PhD project will consider how Edinburgh’s tourism, festivals and events, and hospitality, sector can adapt to the new world; and how the city can redefine itself in terms of becoming an attractive staycation destination for its local communities?

As a leading international tourism destination, and Scotland’s capital city, Edinburgh’s identity is framed by its rich heritage and cultural contexts. It is designated by UNESCO as two World Heritage sites; a City of Literature; and branded as the ‘world’s leading festival city’ (Festivals Edinburgh, 2020). Today Edinburgh’s eleven city-based festivals attract 4.5 million attendances from 70 countries worldwide; and generate £313 million for Scotland’s economy (BOP Consulting & Festivals Edinburgh, 2016). Edinburgh’s evolution as the festival city has seen destination managers’ leveraging its festivals to drive event tourism (Todd, et al., 2017).
Nevertheless, recent pre-COVID discourses from Edinburgh’s local communities and media have criticised commercial agendas of staging year-round festivals in Edinburgh’s historic centre and its public spaces. Edinburgh has been described as being a city for visitors, and not for locals, with anti-tourism sentiment expressed in the media due to overtourism and commodification (Leask, 2019).

Consequences and opportunities of the COVID-19 Pandemic:
A significant decline in international tourism volume and value is likely to have significant and negative impacts on Edinburgh and Scotland. How can local communities engage more with local tourism businesses and adapt to localisation? How can grassroots initiatives be encouraged to enhance locally-relevant tourism recovery?

With the future of Edinburgh’s festivals uncertain, what does this mean for the use of space in the city centre, e.g. can local residents reclaim the city?

Use of urban space for tourism and leisure: what will be the impact on city centre retail as more residents work from home and shop locally?

Edinburgh’s historic Old Town and urban centre have previously been the centre of tourism and festivals activity. How can post-Covid responses re-engage those disenfranchised local communities previously ’left out’ of tourism in Edinburgh’s historic centre?

How can Edinburgh flex current and previous provision to suit the needs of the local community as staycations and localisation become increasingly important?

Research approach
This interdisciplinary PhD research will be informed by tourism, cultural, and urban studies and will contribute to knowledge across these disciplines. It is anticipated that this project will involve collaborating with partners including tourism, hospitality and festivals and events
organisations; community groups/residents in central Edinburgh; civic organisations and partners.

Expected outcomes and impacts
Outcomes from this project could inform and contribute to: Multi-partner informed guidance to practically support Edinburgh tourism recovery from COVID-19 based on sustainable local community engagement.

The development of strategies to enhance the city’s tourism products for greater local community use; increase the impact of COVID response stimuli; and encourage sustainable staycation activity in Edinburgh and Scotland.

The development of Local Place Plans for the historic centre of Edinburgh and the Local Development Plan for Edinburgh.

Academic qualifications
A first degree (at least a 2.1) ideally in Tourism, Festival and Event, Hospitality Management, or Cultural, Urban studies, or related areas, with a good fundamental knowledge of qualitive research approaches and the UK tourism, festival and events and/or hospitality sector.

English language requirement
IELTS score must be at least 6.5 (with not less than 6.0 in each of the four components). Other, equivalent qualifications will be accepted. Full details of the University’s policy are available online.

Essential attributes:
Experience of fundamental independent academic research projects at UG and/or PG level
Competent in qualitative research methods
Knowledge of the UK tourism sector
Good written and oral communication skills
Strong motivation, with evidence of independent research skills relevant to the project
Good time management

Desirable attributes:
Practical experience in the UK tourism, events, and/or hospitality sector
Experience of working with key stakeholders/partners, e.g. industry, community, civic


BOP Consulting and Festivals and Events International, (2016). Edinburgh Festivals 2015 Impact Study, available at:

Cockburn Association (2020). ‘City for Sale’: the commodification of Edinburgh’s public spaces, available at:

Festivals Edinburgh (2020). Welcome to Edinburgh, the world's leading festival city, available at:
Leask, A. (2019) Case study Edinburgh City Tourism in ‘Overtourism’? – Understanding and Managing Urban Tourism Growth beyond Perceptions – Volume 2: Case Studies, UNWTO, Madrid.

Todd, L., Leask, A., & Ensor, J. (2017). Understanding primary stakeholders' multiple roles in hallmark event tourism management. Tourism Management, 59, 494-509.
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