What The Dickins: A Tale Of Edinburgh City

What do guests think about Edinburgh short term lets?

What do guests think of Edinburgh short term lets

What do guests think about Edinburgh short term lets? It is a good question. Understanding what guests think – why and how often they use self catering accommodation and what they would do if staying in a home in Edinburgh becomes much more difficult, is surely an important aspect to consider? But the powers that be (or were in the case of The City of Edinburgh Council which saw Adam McVey’s SNP lose control this week) do not seem to have been interested in what they think. Instead, it was far easier to paint them as inconsiderate, noisy hoodlums and at the heart of tearing apart communities. And whilst hideous guests exist, I don’t know any and I’ve been letting homes in the city for 24 years.

The City of Edinburgh Council have, to date, not approached the subject short term lets looking for solutions. If they had, they would have understood so much more about this sector than they do. They would have understood that the vast majority of guests are decent, respectful people, who love Edinburgh and use self catering accommodation for a variety of reasons. Their importance to Edinburgh’s economy would have been taken seriously too. They would also have realised that there is no room for arrogant complacency about visitors choosing to visit Edinburgh, no matter what.

What do guests think about Edinburgh short term lets

Will visitors continue to choose Edinburgh as a destination no matter what? Our questionnaire makes it clear they will not.

But hopefully it is not too late. The new Labour led administration in Edinburgh can choose to listen to guests and the professional agents and owners who provide a world-class service in the city. Dickins recently suggested Six Dynamic Solutions to Short Term Letting in Edinburgh which have won support from the Association of Scottish Self Caterers, Edinburgh’s Chamber of Commerce and the Edinburgh Tourism Action Group. Let’s hope that it is possible to have a sensible conversation with the new administration.

Association of Scotland’s Self-Caterers Chief Executive, Fiona Campbell, said:
“With a change in administration for Edinburgh comes the chance for a more practical, grown-up, and productive conversation about Edinburgh’s self-catering industry.
“If our new council works with our sector, making their decisions based on evidence rather than unfounded hunches and idle speculation, then there’s room for growth, jobs, and sustainability that will really help the city.

“Our association is ready to work constructively with the council for the good of everyone who lives and works in Edinburgh and we sincerely hope they feel the same way.”

Dickins publishes a monthly newsletter – What The Dickins: A Tale of Edinburgh City. It is regularly read by over 1,200 Edinburgh lovers. We do care what guests think of Edinburgh short term lets and their future. How often they stay here and why. What it will mean for the city, as well as ourselves, if they make different choices. So, in April we invited our guests to answer six questions about staying in homes in Edinburgh. Here are the results. They are fascinating and emphatic.

What do guests think about Edinburgh short term lets?

Affordability was mentioned by very many people. They cannot afford and don’t want to stay in hotels.

How many times have you stayed in a self catering home in Edinburgh?

  • 1 time – 22.6%
  • 2 times – 13.8%
  • 3-5 times – 27.7%
  • 6-9 times – 16.4%
  • 10+ times – 19.5%

So, 63.6% of respondents have stayed in self catering accommodation in Edinburgh three or more times. Nearly 1 in 5 respondents have stayed in self catering homes 10 times or more. That is a lot of experience of choosing self catering in Edinburgh.

Where will people stay in the Festival if there are far less homes to stay in? Does the Festival’s future look different if that is the case?

When you have booked a self catering home in the city, have you been?

  • A tourist – 44%
  • Here for Edinburgh’s Festivals – 40%
  • Visiting friends or family – 31.4%
  • Working in the city – 14.5%
  • A local needing temporary accommodation – 10.5%
  • Studying – 5%

Respondents to this multiple choice question could tick as many answers as applied to them. 30% of respondents ticked more than one answer – showing that many people over time have used self catering accommodation in the city for a number of different reasons. Based on the City of Edinburgh Council, you’d think every guest was here for a stag or hen night or a giant party.

But in fact they are a local needing temporary accommodation who then moved away and now uses self catering when they are visiting friends and family. Or someone who was here for the Festivals and then came back as a tourist. As we know from question one, 63.6% people have booked self catering accommodation three times or more.

What do guests think about Edinburgh short term lets

Guests want to self cater so they can eat their own food, especially if they have dietary requirements.

If the number of self catering homes in the city is significantly reduced, would you stay in a hotel instead?

  • No – 64%
  • Yes – 36%

Adam McVey’s line was that once they’d got rid of most of the self catering accommodation, people would stay in hotels. But that is not what these guests will do. Two thirds of them would not stay in a hotel. An emphatic no to hotels. Contrary to what The SNP City of Edinburgh Council assumed. But then they never really asked anyone and their lack of empirical data never seemed to bother them. They were on a fact free mission.

If the number of self catering homes in the city is significantly reduced, would you visit the city less?

  • Yes – 69%
  • No – 31%

This response should really concern decision makers. Almost 70% of people using self catering accommodation have said they would visit the city less if staying in self catering becomes much more difficult. If the decision makers have an arrogant sense that people will stay in the city no matter what, this answer tells them very clearly that that is not the case. After two brutal years of Covid, creating laws and rules with the intention of devastating local business would be a very strange thing to do.

What do guests think about Edinburgh short term lets?

Guests prefer the privacy and space that a home offers over a hotel…

If the number of self catering homes in the city is significantly reduced, do you think it would be good or bad for the city?

  • Bad – 91.1%
  • Good – 8.9%

Well, this answer could not be more emphatic. 91.1% of guests think that significantly reducing the  number of self catering homes will be bad for the city. We agree with them.

What do guests think about Edinburgh short term lets?

Finally we asked, If staying in a self catering home in Edinburgh becomes much more difficult because there are far less of them, what would that mean to you?

There was a box to fill in whatever they wanted to say. 80% of respondents took the time to say something. Stay elsewhere was most used phrase when answering this question. Clearly that concerns us at Dickins and we would hope it concerns the large sections of the city. Here is a small selection of the hundreds of comments we received. They give you a strong idea though. Can you spot a stag or hen night attendee? No, we can’t either.

I would take my custom and money to a more welcoming city.

Go elsewhere.

I would not come.

I’d be very upset. Staying in one make me feel a part of the city and enhances my stay….always.

We cook our own meals, for health reasons. If we can’t stay in a self catering home, we are not able to stay in Edinburgh.

To me personally, nothing; however I think it would be a sad & unnecessary loss to Edinburgh visitors/ tourist economy.

A critical business issue with significant budgetary and operational implications.

I now live here but part of our moving here was experiences we had staying in rented accommodation and experiencing local life. We also used rental accommodation as a way of seeing where in the city we wanted to live. I would like to see some regulation but completely getting rid of all short term lets is not the answer.

About hotels

I am local but use Dickins self catering when I have visitors I can’t accommodate eg because of mobility problems or numbers greater than I have space for. I also used Dickins to decant when having my bathroom upgraded. Hotels would not provide the same affordable or suitable accommodation.

It would mean that we visited and stayed in a hotel. It would mean we stayed for less time though as living in a hotel for a week at a time especially during the festival can become quite crowded.

I find hotels too restricting and expensive so I may go elsewhere instead!

Hotels don’t work well for a family with kids who go to bed at different times (and parents want to be able to stay up later!). For my family, being able to putter around at breakfast time, eat in our PJs, and eat regular home-style food, is also huge. I’m not sure I can face a hotel when travelling with our kids. I’d rather go to another city.

About Edinburgh’s Festivals

I can’t even envisage such a catastrophe. I love Edinburgh and I adore the Fringe Festival. Sadly I should have to spend my money elsewhere.

I would be very upset. I visit the festival every year and at 89 years I can’t have many years left . I’ve had some lovely apartments which I share with old friends from the days long ago when we were young nurses at the ERI.

It would be a great disappointment. I have attended the Fringe Festival for the last twenty two years and it would be upsetting to think that I have to stop what I love doing owing to a lack of accommodation. A hotel doesn’t give one the freedom or peace and quiet that a self-catering home does. I travel alone and do not desire the hustle and bustle of a hotel. Some solitude is good for the soul!

Probably could not bring more performances to the Fringe and even as tourists we would not come.

The festival would be rather difficult.

Would not visit for Fringe.

I would likely not come to Edinburgh for the Fringe, for Christmas or New Year celebrations.

It would make coming for the festivals far less attractive and I’d be inclined not to come at all.

It would mean I probably would not be able to afford to come over to visit or work in Edinburgh, because the prices would be too steep. I would also not be able to bring over theatre productions to participate in the Edinburgh Fringe for the same reason. Staying at expensive hotels and -self catering is not an option for small independent theatre productions. The costs are too high. A theatre company is there for a longer time during the Festival. People need a home away from home. Staying at a hotel is not very satisfactory in these circumstances. I really liked the old set up of student homes being rented out during the summer to artists, tourists, etc. Thought that was a very clever way of utilising sparse space. I can see a lot of theatre companies staying away from the Fringe, if it is so difficult and pricy to put their people up. In my opinion it would really mean a loss of cultural diversity for the festival/Fringe. It could end as a marginal festival instead of being world renowned and revered. Such a shame.

About affordability

It would be much more difficult to visit family, including grandchildren and a disabled sibling. We cannot afford hotel accommodation and eating out. Self-catering means that we can eat and cook at an affordable level while we visit Edinburgh. We can then afford to shop and visit tourist sites in the city.

It would make visiting less convenient as self-catering is much more convenient than a hotel. It also allows me to cut costs for food and is easier to plan transport.

I would need to consider accommodation further from the city, factor in transport costs and available amenities, that’s why city dwellings are so ideal, they have it all.

We often have family with us during the week of the festival. A hotel would be too expensive for a week for the whole family and so we would be less likely to come and stay for the festival.

Less choice, higher costs of both eating and accommodation, more remote from local flavour, less convenient, less private.

Edinburgh would become unaffordable to visit as regularly as I currently visit the city. It was also make longer stays less appealing as I would be forced to stay in a hotel which is less convenient for longer term stays – it’s more expensive and requires adhering to the schedules/processes of the hotel.

About where they would stay

I would stay somewhere else in Scotland and if I were to go to Edinburgh use a car/ train/ bus to get there and not stay overnight.

We would stay in a hotel, or consider staying outside of the city and travel in by train.

Would not be going to Edinburgh.

Avoid Edinburgh.

Huge impact for a young family of five to have to stay in a hotel when visiting elderly parents instead of having our own home from home. Resulting in less frequent visits sadly.

There would be considerably less incentive for me to visit Edinburgh.

Staying further out or more daily travelling adding to pollution and less time to enjoy what the city offers.

About why they prefer to self cater

It would be very sad and a great loss. The self catering homes give visitors to the city a unique Edinburgh experience which hotels cannot provide.

I would feel sad. Self catering accommodation gives you so much freedom, to allow you to do as you please when on holiday. It gives you choice too. There are many great eateries, so you can eat in those too. Most of all, self catering offers a ‘home from home’. Families,and friends, can live together for a couple of weeks, and have a great time. Hotels are too formal for this. Many are outdated, expensive, and purely functional. The independence that self catering offers, means a great deal to me.

I would consider traveling to a different city, one that offered a large number of self catering homes.

Self-catering properties give you the freedom to come and go as you please so staying in a hotel would not only be more expensive it would feel more restrictive thus dampening enjoyment of the holiday.

Lack of self-catering homes would result in loss of charm for a visit to Edinburgh.

It would definitely make it less easy and less comfortable for all my family and friends to visit Edinburgh. One of the attractions of Edinburgh is that it has a great choice of comfortable and trustworthy homes from home enabling everyone to enjoy the city in a relaxed environment.

We love Edinburgh we’d be devastated, we love our independence that self catering offers, we sleep better, we shop more when self catering, it’s home away from home, we relax more when self catering, for a short while whilst self catering you feel as you belong to this vibrant city that offers so much to participate in , theatre , festivals, art galleries, museums, restaurants, walks, public transport, gardens, historical sites, shopping to name just a few , we just wouldn’t come to Edinburgh if we are denied the choice of self catering over hotels, we have never had any problems with booking with organisations like Dickins, don’t change laws instead support organisations like Dickins, and listen too what they know through their many years of self catering, their expertise is invaluable , give visitors to Edinburgh the right to choose, don’t kill off the visitors hold onto what has always worked. 

We were able to spend six months in Edinburgh as a “family study abroad” plan with our kids school. It is a precious memory and we loved getting to be in Edinburgh. That said, we really could not have stayed in a hotel for that period of time – with three elementary aged kids, we needed to have a kitchen, multiple bedrooms, etc. If accommodation was not available, we would have chosen a different city as our home base. As it was, we stayed in two different short term lets (broken up by a trip to continental Europe) and it was perfect!

We’d have to plan our trip even farther in advance. We always use Dickins, a professional agency that we can depend on. We would just have to do the best we could. We really enjoy being able to cook our own food, wash clothes, be a part of a neighborhood. We also respect the properties we stay in and the neighbors around us, do unto others…I feel using Dickens encourages renters to be more responsible as they represent the kinds of properties we are interested in renting, not some party place. They are professionals and we feel they represent the properties well and respectfully, which we appreciate.

We would like to thank everyone who took the time to complete our questionnaire. As you have read, the results are strong, emphatic, clear and heartfelt.

We hope that the City of Edinburgh Council will start to read and listen. Because if they don’t, the outcome for the economy of the city and its Festivals will be grave. Short term lets are rented, in the vast majority of cases, by decent, responsible people who choose self catering and not hotels. If the number of self catering homes in the city is significantly reduced, they will not come or will come less often. That much is clear. They have spoken. Will the City of Edinburgh Council listen?

Thank you,

Louise Dickins




  • Lynn

    May 31, 2022 at 9:41 pm

    I let out a self catering ground floor apartment that is very popular with elderly and infirm guests who look for easy access. I recently had a couple stay and the husband uses a wheelchair. They were so pleased they found our apartment with private parking, on the ground floor and centrally located making their stay so convenient. He also used an indoor walking rollator so appreciated the extra room an apartment provided as a hotel room would not have been suitable for all the equipment. Would Edinburgh be discriminating against the disabled and elderly people if we take away the majority of suitable accommodation for them?


    • Dickins

      June 2, 2022 at 8:49 am

      It’s a very good point Lynn. Hotels are impractical and unaffordable for a large number of guests including those you just hosted.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *