Tourism bid to bury Edinburgh-Glasgow rivalry

Edinburgh First's Natasha Breen and Strathclyde University's Gordon Hodge meet aboard Britannia. Photograph: Steven Scott Taylor
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IT IS a centuries-old rivalry that is still the source of endless jibes and jealousies. But now a tourism initiative could unite Edinburgh and Glasgow at last.

Future industry leaders have embarked on a new course which could consign their constant competition and carping to the past in a bid to make both cities more firmly established on the world tourism map.

Representatives of marketing bodies, visitor attractions, universities, conference centres, hotels and tour operators have been brought together for the Edinburgh-Glasgow “Destination Leaders Programme”.

They have committed to sharing knowledge and expertise, developing partnerships and drawing on the strengths of their counterparts at the other end of the M8 for the greater good of the tourism industry.

It is thought joint initiatives and campaigns will emerge from the participants on the six-month course, which is being funded by Scottish Enterprise and is run by Edinburgh Napier University’s business school. Longer term, it is hoped their efforts will lead to a sea-change in attitudes, not only within the industry, but among the citizens of the two cities, with visitors urged to try out attractions, events and festivals on offer just over 40 miles away.

Experts at Edinburgh Napier say the course is aimed at developing a new breed of forward-thinking industry leaders who can help transform an industry already worth more than £11 billion to the Scottish economy.

The 21 participants from Edinburgh and Glasgow have joined the course a decade after the launch of a £600,000 collaboration project between the two cities was scrapped amid concerns it failed to deliver.

Dr Jane Ali-Knight, a director of the business school, said: “Cities like Copenhagen, Amsterdam and Manchester just seem so much more joined up than Edinburgh and Glasgow. There’s a really clear message coming out of these other cities and there seems to be a really consistent quality of the marketing and the visitor experience on offer.

“In both Edinburgh and Glasgow it seems to be very patchy and there are things at all levels that really aren’t world-class, for example when it comes to food, drink and hospitality. There are some really good examples, but many things aren’t at the level they should be.

“There is definitely a perception that Glasgow and Edinburgh are rival cities and there’s not been a lot of collaboration between them. Deep down, there are a lot of similarities between them and we’ve certainly found people from the two cities work really well together.”

Gordon Hodges, head of conferencing and events at Strathclyde University, said: “For a long time Glasgow had the Commonwealth Games to focus on. The city did a very good job of bringing everyone together and giving everyone a reason to do what they were doing. It showed Glasgow at its absolute best, but it won’t have anything that big again. I’m interested in how it keeps on improving and continuing to make the visitor experience as good as it can be without that goal.”

Natasha Breen, marketing manager at Edinburgh First, the conferences and events arm of Edinburgh University, said: “I’m really interested in what Edinburgh can do to avoid complacency, redevelop ideas, and promote and work with Glasgow to help make Scotland one of the top destinations in Europe.

Laura Vass, business development manager at Edinburgh-based Rabbie’s Tours, added: “We’re hoping the project will encourage people to not say things like ‘don’t go to Edinburgh’ or ‘don’t go to Glasgow’. It may be just banter and tongue in cheek, but we need to break perceptions down. We should be encouraging people to do both because they are both great cities.

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