MORE than half a million people flocked to Edinburgh city centre for the capital’s official Christmas events, organisers have revealed.
Fringe promoters Underbelly, who were at the helm of the festivities for a second year, have revealed a 40 per cent rise in the number of people buying tickets in the space of just 12 months, up to 541,151.
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And footfall figures for key areas have also soared following a major shake-up in the two main arenas, at St Andrew Square and Princes Street Gardens.
These included relocated the 60-metres tall Star Flyer attraction next to the Scott Monument and opening a second ice rink opposite the Harvey Nichols department store, as well as reducing ticket prices for Edinburgh-based families following an outcry over the cost of key attractions in 2013.
More than 3.6 million people were recorded visiting the two main areas during the six-week festival, which was first held in 1999, an increase of 37.6 per cent on the same period 12 months previously.
Footfall figures on Princes Street were said to be 8.6 per cent up, with the overall city centre figure 5.1 per cent ahead of last year.
Underbelly, which vowed to take the capital’s Christmas programme upmarket in a bid to create a ‘metropolitan’ festival to rival the city’s key overseas rivals said it was already looking ahead to this year and planning how to expand its programme outwith the two key areas on either side of Princes Street.
Hit shows this year include late-night cabaret acts Scotch & Soda and Briefs, as well as Underbelly’s huge Fringe hit Hot Dub Time Machine.
Director Charlie Wood said: “We are obviously thrilled at the figures - over half a million people bought tickets for shows and attractions at Edinburgh’s Christmas, which is equivalent to more than 10 per cent of the entire population of Scotland.
“It demonstrates the scale and attraction of the festival. We set out to make Edinburgh’s Christmas one of the world’s best places to be at Christmas time and these figures show that we’re on our way to achieving that.
“As ever, we will be working in the next few months to see what worked well, what didn’t work so well, and how we can improve the festival to make sure that next year’s is an even greater success for the people of the city and visitors to look forward to and enjoy.
“In particular, we want to work with other areas of Edinburgh to involve them in Edinburgh’s Christmas and extend the benefits to businesses and residents.”
Steve Cardownie, festivals and events champion at the city council, said: “Our winter festivals are the envy of the world and rightly so. This has been another record-breaking year and the huge boost to footfall is good news for city centre businesses and the local economy. I think people will agree that the programme was even bigger and better this year.”
Andy Neal, chief executive of city centre business group Essential Edinburgh, said: “This year’s figures demonstrate the great value that high quality events bring to the city centre and the businesses there – with large numbers of people coming to the area to take part.
“We will be talking with our levy-payers to see what aspects worked best for them and which aspects might need to be tweaked, but overall we should all acknowledge what has been a fantastic event.”
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