Value of Edinburgh’s festival soars to £313m in five years

Performers appearing from around the world at the Edinburgh Military Tattoo have helped attract a record number of visitors. Picture: Getty
Performers appearing from around the world at the Edinburgh Military Tattoo have helped attract a record number of visitors. Picture: Getty
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The value of Edinburgh’s festivals has soared by almost a quarter to £313 million in the space of just five years, according to new research.

Flagship events like the Edinburgh International Festival, the Fringe, the Tattoo and the Hogmanay festivities are now attracting a record 4.5 million people each year – up by more than 250,000 in that period.

For the festivals to have succeeded in continuing to grow so strongly is a real story of resilience for Scotland

Julia Amour

They are also now supporting 6,021 jobs – up by 26 per cent – according to findings released ahead of next month’s 70th annual season.

Major factors behind the growth in the value of the festivals include the impact of new spectator stands used for the Tattoo, Fringe ticket sales soaring 17 per cent over the last five years, and the EIF’s box office income soaring to a record £3.8m.

The research found 43 per cent of those surveyed said the festivals were their sole reason behind a visit to Scotland, with 92 per cent describing the city’s events as “must-see”.

Festivals Edinburgh, the organisation which commissioned the research, said the findings would be used to bolster the case to maintain funding for the city’s main events in the event of a predicted “fiscal cliff” in the next few years.

Director Julia Amour pointed out that record numbers had been achieved despite festival funding “flatlining” over the last five years thanks to extensive efforts to ensure that “world-class” programmes continued to be staged.

She also highlighted that the significant growth had been achieved in most areas despite a “stagnation” in household income across the UK, the eurozone crisis and the impact of the wider global downturn.Ms Amour pointed out the new research found that 89 per cent of local people felt that the festivals increased their pride in the city, while 94 per cent said the festivals were “part of what makes Edinburgh special as a city.”

Consultants BOP say Edinburgh’s year-round calendar of events was worth £280m to the city last year and £313m to the national economy – compared to £235m and £252m respectively when research was last conducted in 2010.

Ms Amour said: “We’re very pleased that there has been such strong growth over the last five years and that the economic benefit of the festivals has gone up by almost a quarter.

“During that period, we’ve had the global recession following the financial crash, the eurozone crisis, which has affected some of our most important markets and the fact household incomes have flatlined in that time. For the festivals to have succeeded in continuing to grow so strongly is a real story of resilience for Scotland.

“It’s a fantastic testament to the quality of the programming the festivals are putting on. That’s what drives all the other benefits.”

The findings have been published a year after a study into the long-term future of the festivals warned of the need to ensure they did not “rest on their laurels and become complacent.”

The second Thundering Hooves report, also published by BOP, warned “large-scale, radical solutions” were needed to replace eroding public funding in the festivals over the next decade.

Ms Amour said: “The key lesson for us is that the festivals have maintained a world-class offer during a period when core grants have flatlined. That’s becoming more difficult to do. We need to make sure alternatives are found.

“We’re still talking to all of the different parties and several options are still being looked at.”