A DRIVE to overhaul the way Edinburgh is promoted to the world will be launched today by the city's controversial new marketing body as it emerged a string of major organisations have already thrown their weight behind it.
Business leaders, hoteliers, university chiefs, retail groups and festival organisers have pledged their backing to the "alliance", which is independent of VisitScotland.
Details of the first initiatives to be rolled out by the group, which has a core budget of 1 million, were disclosed yesterday.
Campaigns are planned to offset bad publicity over the beleaguered financial sector in the wake of RBS and HBOS's troubles, the impact of the tramworks in the city centre and concerns over how the downturn make affect the city's festivals.
The city is to be promoted as a must-see cultural destination – rivalling anywhere in Europe – while visitors for conferences, sporting events and festivals are to be targeted to try to persuade them to return to study, live or work.
The capital is hoping to compete more effectively with the likes of Copenhagen, Prague and Amsterdam to attract first-time visitors from around the world, and overhaul the city's image among young travellers.
Senior officials at the national tourism body have questioned the wisdom of creating the body in the current climate, as the council has withdrawn its 560,000 VisitScotland grant to help pay for it.
But leaders of the Destination Edinburgh Marketing Alliance (Dema) have insisted it is the "perfect time" to launch it as the city faces challenges to its reputation with the tramworks, chaos in the banking sector and developments being put on hold.
Backers include Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce, Edinburgh University, Festivals Edinburgh and the Edinburgh Principal Hotels Association.
The alliance will promote major development sites that are available on the waterfront, Princes Street and west Edinburgh, while a joint campaign with all universities and colleges in the city aims to attract both new students and academics.
Hotel magnate Norman Springford, the chairman of the Apex hotel group, has agreed to chair Dema.
He said: "This initiative has been talked about for years and is way overdue. For far too long, there has been too much duplication of effort with all the marketing bodies that have existed. It's exactly the right time to be getting this off the ground."