Between the lines: EICC vital to Edinburgh economy

Edinburgh International Conference Centre. Picture: Steven Scott Taylor
Edinburgh International Conference Centre. Picture: Steven Scott Taylor
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INVESTMENT and innovation will keep the conference centre thriving for the next 20 years, writes Gordon Munro

As we see in the 20th anniversary of the Edinburgh International Conference Centre (EICC) this month, it’s remarkable to think that the venue has now contributed in the region of £500 million to the local economy in Scotland while hosting over one million delegates and holding over 3,000 major conferences.

The venue has hosted royalty, presidents and some of the world’s largest organisations and built a reputation that compares favourably to any other city conference centre worldwide. It has been integral to Edinburgh’s success in being ranked as the UK’s top conference destination outside London.

In order to keep its status on the world stage, the EICC cannot rest on its laurels and must continue to invest in the future if it is to retain its lofty spot in the international order and drive even greater economic impact to the city. Along these lines, the multi-purpose Lennox Suite was opened in 2013, part of a £35m expansion of the venue focused on adding industry-leading technology and functionality. The redevelopment has improved its ability to attract even more international conferences to Edinburgh.

A big part of the EICC’s success is down to Edinburgh’s own rise as a leading international city, renowned for its universities, financial centre, flourishing cultural scene and a technology arena producing some of the world’s most exciting start-up activity. Improvements to infrastructure and development to the west, including at the airport, are helping the overall offering by making it easier to get in and around the capital.

In his first year in the post, the tenure of EICC chief executive Marshall Dallas has been marked out by his desire for the EICC and its people to work even more closely with stakeholders like the City of Edinburgh Council and other partner organisations. August saw the EICC and the Edinburgh International Festival working in close partnership to deliver world-class performances alongside a popular Fringe programme within the same venue. Marshall has brought a can-do management style to the business which is already paying dividends. And with a strong hand on the numbers, he fully expects to mitigate previously predicted losses in 2015 before moving back into the black next year.

The EICC’s strategy is centred around a commitment to deliver the highest standards of service and quality to a wide range of clients and their delegates, supported by world-class facilities, a dedicated team and the latest technology. The strategy is working, with 60 per cent repeat business and clients identifying the venue’s main selling points as the facilities, an eye for detail, the “wow factor” and the city of Edinburgh itself. It’s no surprise the management team continue to invest in its people and technology rather than cutting back in any way.

Market research from recent history revealed that the EICC had a reputation in some quarters for being over-expensive and inflexible, something the senior management team has worked hard to address over the last year and the latest market intelligence indicates this shift has been noticed by the industry. This bodes well for the economy as more delegates equate to more spend across the city and Scotland.

As we celebrate 20 years in the life of the EICC, the anniversary offers us the chance to see what a jewel in the city’s crown the conference venue has become. For one, I wish Marshall and the team all the very best for the 20 years to come.

• Gordon Munro is a Labour Party councillor for the Leith Ward at the City of Edinburgh Council and chair of the EICC’s board of directors