Dundee needs to be more than a day visit destination.

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It’s quite ironic that the new V&A Dundee exhibition is entitled ‘Night Fever’ because the night time economy in Dundee is definitely under the weather just now. In fact, it’s pretty much bedridden and faces huge challenges to make a full recovery. The exhibition focusses on late night club culture, but a big part of the ‘night out’ experience often starts with the early evening and that’s an important part in making Dundee a successful tourism destination.

The city’s attractions do a great job of luring visitors into the area, but the majority of tourist attractions operate the day shift in tourism so they  concentrate their efforts, and rightly so, on getting visitors through the doors between the operating hours of 10am and 5pm. It’s up to the hospitality and entertainment businesses to take over when the day shift finishes, although everyone in the industry knows they work a double shift.

As accommodation providers we need both the day shift and the night shift to work and enhance the attractiveness of staying over in the city.

Which is why we are currently working hard with our partners at VisitDundee to help showcase the importance that the evening economy can bring to drive Dundee’s cultural, economic and social success. We are jointly representing industry at national forums and we’re making the point that strategic support is needed to help develop and support the businesses that attract and keep locals and visitors in the city after 5pm.

Prior to 2020, we’ve seen Dundee really flourish as a day visit destination, but that hasn’t translated to an equally huge rise in overnight stays. In a way we’re a victim of our location, where our proximity to the central belt and ease of access through the road and rail systems allowing visitors to pop in and then pop out in a day.

Throughout Scotland, our cities offer a unique experience and the pubs, bars, hotels, restaurants, theatres, nightclubs and live music venues keep people in the city centre and provide a vital ingredient to any destination’s offering. Without a vibrant evening economy then those Dundee day visitors could  quickly disperse and most worryingly for our local Hotels, B&Bs and Serviced Apartments; will probably choose to stay elsewhere.

We can’t underestimate the positive effect that having evening venues open can have on city recovery and the confidence it will instill that will get visitors enjoying the urban environment again. But with many of those bars, restaurants and in particular late night venues not able to open or trade with any financial viability, it is left to those with outside space and flexibility to change their offering to try and take up the slack. Hospitality operators can be resilient lot, but with operations taking place externally and with more protocols in place staffing costs are through the roof. Entertainment such as live music and DJ performances are still seemingly quite some time away leaving nightclubs, late night and music venues facing the same plight as they have for the past year, only now with dwindling financial support.

May the 17th will be boldly circled on the calendar and many businesses are desperately waiting for June and July when trade is suggested to be able to “return to greater normality”. However, it may well be too late for some. There’s no doubting that Covid has affected everyone, but the Hospitality industry has taken a bigger hit than most and only those within the industry can really understand the costs. They need to be listened to and supported and DAVAA with VisitDundee are working to help drive business recovery.

At DAVAA we will continue to support the work to bring leisure visitors to the city, but we’ll make sure do our best to balance the scales and do more to support and promote the evening economy and the businesses that make up a big part of our destination appeal.