Giant pandas bring in the crowds at Edinburgh Zoo

The giant panda’s presence at Edinburgh Zoo has increased visitors by 200 per cent. Tourist numbers at the Scottish attraction have increased massively, and its all thanks to two very cute pandas.

The pandas named Tian Tian and Yang Guang, have had around 70,000 visitors since they arrived in December. Increasing visitor numbers three fold compared with the same time last year.

Yang Guang, the male, who is also known as Sunshine, has been exploring his new home and spending hours in full view of the zoo’s keepers.

Tian Tian (Sweetie) has been more reserved and shy, hiding from the public much of the time.

Since the pandas arrival, the zoo has seen a huge increase in sales of panda toys, costing as much as £40.

Edinburgh Zoo chief executive Hugh Roberts said: ‘We’ve been fully booked almost every day so far and expect the popularity of Tian Tian and Yang Guang to continue. Visitors’ faces have been amazing, both young and old. For the vast majority of people this is the first chance they’ve had in their lifetime to cast their eyes on a giant panda.’

Time slots are needed to visit the pandas as they are in such high demand, but visitors are not charged any extra.

Mr Roberts added: ‘As well as being incredibly endangered and rarely seen outside China, they are an extremely cute and anthropomorphic (showing characteristics identified with humans) animal.

‘People are often amazed to see for themselves that pandas are quite happy to make eye contact and our visitors can learn lots of interesting facts from our panda patrols, like pandas eat a third of their bodyweight in food every day and the male pandas do their own version of a handstand to scent mark their territory.’

The pandas arrived in Edinburgh from Ya’an reserve in Chengdu, China on December 4.

Once they had become accustomed to their new home, they went on show to the public on December 16.

Edinburgh Zoo will be the animals’ home for the next 10 years, and it is hoped during this time the pair will have cubs. They are the first breeding pair in the UK for 17 years.

 

Edinburgh consider introducing ‘tourist tax’

Tourists planning to travel to Edinburgh to catch a glimpse of what the city has to offer could soon be paying extra for the experience – after the city announced they are considering introducing a controversial ‘tourist tax’.

 

The city council this week have held discussions about bringing in the fee, which could bring in between £5 and £10million extra in revenue each year.

 

On top of their accommodation cost guests in the city would pay an extra ‘bed tax’ charge of either £1 or £2 a night.

 

Countries across the world, including Vancouver and Venice have also introduced tourist taxes.

 

Edinburgh Council officials are hugely in favour of the new idea, however Green councillor Steve Burgess has argued it would be “unlikely to discourage visitors or affect the hotel trade”.

 

He argued, “£1 or £2 will not make a big different when most hotel rates in Edinburgh start at £50 or £60”.

 

According to records of the discussion on the possible tax, it is noticed that it would require Scottish Parliament legislation to enable the City of Edinburgh Council to introduce a transient visitor levy.

 

Hoteliers in the city however, have reacted in a negative way to the proposed idea.

 

Colin Paton of the Edinburgh Hotels Association said, “This is a lose-lose initiative, and is completely anti-business. It would certainly put people off coming to Edinburgh and coming to Scotland”.

 

He added: “The City of Edinburgh wants to put itself at a competitive disadvantage to the rest of the UK. It is bad news for consumers, for business, for employees, for the city and for Scotland”.

 

Mr Paton also believes that the introduction of the change would lead to job losses.

 

However Italy’s great Renaissance destination has justified their tourist tax as a way of protecting the city’s heritage.

 

Sandro Simionato, Venice’s deputy mayor said: “This tax is a new and important opportunity for the city”.

 

“The fundamental objective, which will also involve tourists who visit and love Venice, is to save this unique city, which is precious and fragile”.

 

Article by Charlotte Greenhalgh