With the oil and gas industry unlikely to recover the full economic impetus it has provided for the Aberdeen over the past 40 years and more, the city needs to diversify its economy.
Tourism has to be part of that mix. Ironically, as the oil industry starts to wane, the city, finally, has an ample supply of hotel accommodation. Visitors – who previously found there were no vacancies, particularly during the working week – now have a choice of accommodation.
So our council should be focussing hard on making the city an attractive destination.
In that respect a series of announcements this month make quite shocking reading.
After more than 40 successful years Aberdeen’s councillors have voted to stop the council’s funding (reported to be about £120,000) for the Aberdeen International Youth Festival
This is an event that has drawn 30,000 participants (along with countless visitors attending the performances), from around the world to come and experience Aberdeen and its cultural offering.
That surely is something the council should be encouraging and should have a high priority, even when spending is under pressure. In terms of the city’s total budget of some £450 million, £120,000 really can’t be that significant surely?
What sort of message does it send out if the city kills off the festival for the sake of that saving?
While we were still digesting the folly of that decision along come two other hammer blows to Aberdeen’s reputation.
Firstly, came the news that the re-opening of the Art Gallery would be delayed, possibly by as much as a year! Coupled with that, the funding has fallen short and staff at the council’s headquarters are fundraising to try to raise some of the money. Wanna buy a raffle ticket to pay for the Art Gallery?
Then, on top of that, we were told that Provost Skene’s house – part of the council’s flagship Marischal Square development – might be delayed until 2019. This despite all the hype about its “Hall of Heroes” in which the public helped to choose the famous Aberdonians to be featured in the refurbished historic building.
Compare all this to the approach of the City of Dundee.
Dundee has implemented a very strategic programme that has hauled its reputation up by the bootstraps to the point where it was (pre-Brexit at least) vying for the European Capital of Culture 2023.
Come on Aberdeen. There’s a vital job to be done to invigorate this city’s reputation as a destination.
And you don’t achieve that by cutting funding for your flagship festival and letting two key projects drift behind schedule.