Pope's visit could mean £4m tourist windfall for city

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THE Pope's visit to Edinburgh is set to give the city a multi-million pound economic boost, officials are predicting,

&#149 The visit of Pope Benedict XVI is expected to bring thousands of visitors to the Capital

With up to 100,000 people expected to flock to the Capital to see the pontiff, Scottish Government economists calculate the city could benefit by up to 4 million from overnight stays and visitors spending money in shops and restaurants.

&#149 Should taxpayers help foot the bill for the Pope's visit to the country? Vote here

And on top of the immediate rewards, city leaders believe TV pictures of the Pope in Edinburgh beamed around the world will bring a longer-term return in increased tourism.

Pope Benedict XVI is due to fly in to Edinburgh Airport on September 16 at the start of his official four-day visit to the UK.

The Evening News revealed last month that preparations for the visit could cost the city council up to 400,000 and there will be unspecified policing costs on top of that.

But calculations suggest the Capital stands to gain financially from the occasion.

After his arrival at the airport, Benedict will go directly to the Palace of Holyroodhouse for a meeting with the Queen before being driven through the city in a Popemobile to the home of Cardinal Keith O'Brien, the leader of Scotland's Catholics, in Morningside.

Sources in the Catholic Church say it is impossible to guess how many people will line the streets to see the Pope. One insider said: "It's a weekday when people are working. No-one really knows how many will turn out."

But no-one doubts there will be an influx of Catholics from across the land to see the Pope pass along Princes Street.

And the economists worked out that if there are around 100,000 extra people here that would mean a boost for the city of between 3.25m and 4m.

A source in the Catholic Church in Scotland said: "These figures are an estimate - though we reckon a pretty good estimate - of the mini-economic windfall the Pope's visit will bring to the city.

"While for Catholics pounds shillings and pence is not the important reason for the visit of Pope Benedict, it does nip in the bud any suggestion that somehow the Pope's visit is not a good deal for the taxpayers of Edinburgh or Scotland.

"The fact is, this will be a fantastic day that everyone can share in and enjoy. It will be a historic few hours for both Edinburgh and Scotland."

Images of the Pope's procession along Princes Street, with the Castle as a backdrop, are expected to reach an estimated one billion television viewers.

Council leader Jenny Dawe said the longer-term benefit would be significant, but difficult to quantify.

She said: "Edinburgh is the starting point of the UK visit and the fact people all over the world will see the Popemobile going along Princes Street, which is always very photogenic, will hopefully encourage people to come and visit,"

City economic development leader Tom Buchanan said he was looking forward to a significant economic impact from the Pope's visit. He said: "If there are going to be 100,000 people, many from outside the city, expected to be watching the event in Edinburgh alone, that will add significantly to the economic opportunity for the city. And the sheer advertising we will get from exposure to the world's media should do our hospitality trade no harm for the future."

On Saturday it was revealed that more than eight out of ten Scots think the taxpayer should not contribute to the cost of the Pope's visit. A similar proportion of UK people - 76 per cent - rejected taxpayer funding for the visit on the grounds that he is a religious figure. The findings were issued by public theology think tank Theos.