Edinburgh tourism numbers up following campaign

THE NUMBER of visitors to the Scottish capital has increased significantly following a new drive to promote the city’s assets and enhance the visitor experience.

Visitor numbers were up at Edinburgh Castle. Picture: TSPL
Visitor numbers were up at Edinburgh Castle. Picture: TSPL

The total number of visitors in 2012 was up 11 per cent compared to two years before, with total spending rising by 16 per cent.

The average spend also increased to £321.46 per person, up four per cent on 2010, and there was also a four per cent rise during the key winter months.

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Yearly figures are drawn from a variety of sources and take almost a year to calculate, but tourism chiefs said that the indications were that 2013 had seen further growth in terms of spending and visitor numbers.

Footfall up in 2013

The results come as early indications show that Edinburgh experienced its busiest Christmas in several years in 2013, boosted by a range of attractions and streets clear of tram works and disruption.

Footfall on Princes Street rose by 16.8 per cent in December and 7.6 per cent across the city centre, with the Star Flyer and Big Wheel attractions drawing in tens of thousands of visitors.

Those figures were released at the annual meeting of the Edinburgh Tourism Action Group, which brings together firms across the industry.

Councillor Frank Ross, the city’s economy leader, said: “These figures suggest that 2013 in general was a very good year for the sector and that we are successfully addressing the seasonality issues for the city, increasing visitor numbers and spend in what were traditionally the quieter times of year.

“However, it is vital that we do not get complacent and continue to invest in success.

“We need to get the mix right to ensure Edinburgh’s competitive position is maintained by building capacity in transport, accommodation and facilities, create and communicate reasons to visit and provide a great quality, value for money visitor experience.”

Hotel occupancy rates ‘highest ever’

Edinburgh Castle saw a 26 per cent rise in visitor numbers in the summer months alone, and said that guides in a range of languages such as Mandarin and Hindi have been well received.

In November hotel occupancy was 80.6 per cent – the highest figure on record. This is significant as hotels have typically struggled with far lower occupancy rates outside the summer Festival and winter Christmas and Hogmanay celebrations.

Businesses cross-promoting one another, such as hotels partnering with tour firms or recommending restaurants, has been credited with higher spending.

Robin Worsnop, owner of the Rabbie’s tour group and chair of ETAG said: “Whilst we will be able to celebrate some milestones on our journey to 2020, our focus remains very much on maintaining momentum on the road ahead.

“2014 is undoubtedly a huge year for Scotland’s tourism industry, however, we must learn from the experience of others that hosting these major events is a potential springboard for future success.”

Edinburgh wins conference deals

Marketing Edinburgh, the council-owned tourism body tasked with promoting the city to visitors, also yesterday announced that Edinburgh has won three major conference contracts worth £8m to the local economy.

This includes the Festival of Neuroscience, one of the largest science festivals in Europe, which will be held in April 2015 and attended by 1,500 top academics and scientists.

John Donnelly, chief executive of Marketing Edinburgh, told delegates at the ETAG meeting yesterday: “Business tourism is worth 11 Ryder Cups on any given year, 14 Commonwealth Games and 16 Six Nations championships. That’s serious amounts of money that it brings to this country.”

But he cautioned against the city taking for granted its appeal abroad.

He said: “In 2012 Edinburgh only received 1 per cent of business meetings and conferences in Europe. That means there’s a lot of cities in Europe getting an awful lot more.

“We need to be careful about being too self-congratulatory… competition is fierce and it’s getting harder all the time.”

He also suggested that hotels and other tourism businesses had to be realistic about pricing.

He said: “Coming to the UK, including Edinburgh, is very expensive relative to other European cities… up to 57 per cent more expensive than going to another city in Europe, particularly if you’re going to London - something to be aware of.”