BUSINESS leaders in Edinburgh have lauded the success of revamped Christmas festivities after it emerged there had been a significant increase in visitors to the heart of the capital over the last six weeks.
Footfall figures were up as much as 30 per cent year-on-year in some weeks last month, despite the stormy weather which caused widespread disruption around the country and the temporary closure of some of the city’s star attractions.
Essential Edinburgh, the main business group representing the city centre, said there had been a marked improvement in the quality of the events and attractions provided for visitors. But it admitted some businesses had raised concerns about the number of temporary bars hitting trade and said it was too early to say whether retailers had enjoyed a better festive period.
Footfall up in three of four weeks
Around 1.3 million visitors to the two official “Edinburgh’s Christmas sites” had been recorded in the month following their opening on 22 November.
A 15 per cent increase in footfall in the city centre was recorded in the week beginning 9 December, while the following week saw a 30 per cent hike on the same period in 2012. Christmas week, when many offices were shut, was 1.2 per cent down last year, and the Hogmanay celebrations saw a 6.3 per cent increase year-on-year.
Council leaders approved a radical overhaul of the city’s Christmas attractions almost a year ago when it awarded a three-year contract to Fringe promoters Underbelly to run them for the first time.
Underbelly’s plans saw St Andrew Square become home to major attractions like a Star Flyer and an indoor Spiegeltent, where box office cabaret hit Limbo was staged, while a new ferris wheel, with enclosed cabins, was run beside the Scott Monument. However there widespread complaints about the cost of key attractions and the extent of pop-up bars, while the 80 foot tall Star Flyer had to be temporarily closed for safety checks after part of a plastic seat fell-off while it was spinning around.
Andy Neal, chief executive of Essential Edinburgh, told The Scotsman: “We were much happier with the quality of the various attractions this year. There’s no doubt there was an improvement, which was the intention with the changes that were made.
“Although there were fluctuations in the footfall figures, they were up significantly for most weeks over the season, and we would expect the final percentage increase to be in double-figures when we get it.
“Generally speaking, we’re very happy with how it all went, although next year we would look to spread things out a bit more towards the west end.
‘Too early to know impact on trade’
“From a trading point of view, it’s too early to say how the city centre did, and we did have a number of grumbles about the number of pop-up bars around the site. We had to reach a compromise before the site at St Andrew Square opened over the big bar in there, which meant it was kept open to the elements and was closed at 10pm, but some people were still unhappy about it.”
Edinburgh City Council is expected to review the pricing structure of many Christmas attractions in the wake of criticism on social media sites.
More than 5000 free tickets were given away in a series of special offers which were run from Christmas Eve until the attractions closed on Sunday.