Are Aberdeen's visitors spongers or wealth creators?

Last week Aberdeen city Councillor John Stewart reportedly made the comment that: “Frankly, the city has been subsidising people from outside the city for too long”.

For at least a couple of hundred years, Aberdeen has prospered on the very basis that it provides services for people from Aberdeenshire and further afield. Are Aberdeen’s citizens now being encouraged to look on those who travel into the city as “spongers”?

people in city
Visitors have long been a source of wealth for cities like Aberdeen

Our Victorian forebears were the ones to really recognised the economic importance of drawing people into the city. While we talk (endlessly) about the subject, they actually implemented a real integrated transport network.

A rail network took train loads of visitors from places as far afield as Peterhead, Alford, Dufftown and Banchory and brought them in to create wealth for the city. Once they arrived here a tram network offered them convenient and efficient transport around the Granite City, its businesses, shops and entertainment venues.

There is a lovely old George Washington Wilson picture of St Nicholas Street where you can clearly read the advertising hoarding that invites to buy “Souvenirs of the Granite City”.

Yes, our Victorian forebears knew the importance of making Aberdeen a vibrant, exciting and welcoming place for visitors.

Encouraging visitors (whether for business, pleasure, or both) is probably even more important these days. We now live in an era when business services and shops come to us, courtesy of the internet.

Traffic woes, car parking headaches and expensive disjointed public transport only serve to encourage us to use the keyboard and the mouse, rather than ignition key and steering wheel.

The mindset of cities needs to change to take account of this new reality.

Rather than simply standing back waiting for people to come in and do business, we have to think like the Victorians and make it as easy and attractive as possible to encourage people to come into the city to spend their money.

Any suggestion that these wealth creators are actually “spongers” is hardly going to create a welcoming impression.
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