Nearly a million people are now flocking to Edinburgh’s seven-week-long Christmas festival, according to new research which claims the event is now worth £113 million to the city’s economy.
Ticket sales for the money-spinning event have virtually doubled since new organisers were appointed five years ago, to more than 771,000.
Footfall figures within the main festival have soared by more than two million over the same period, with visitors from 47 different countries now visiting Edinburgh for its Christmas events.
More than 4.653 million people flocked to East Princes Street Gardens, The Mound, St Andrew Square and George Street during last year’s event, the fifth to be overseen by Edinburgh Festival Fringe promoters Underbelly.
Organisers of the Christmas festival, which was launched 20 years ago to help win festive shoppers back to the city centre, have drawn comparisons between the £113m economic impact figure the event now generates and the £313m said to be generated by the city’s other 12 main festivals.
According to the new research by the firm BOP Consulting, the Christmas event is said to have attracted 919,344 “unique visitors” last year. This compares to the 1,070,954 “unique visitors” to events like the Edinburgh International Festival, the Fringe, the Tattoo and the city’s Hogmanay celebrations, estimated three years ago by the same firm.
Research published in the summer said Edinburgh’s Hogmanay celebrations were worth a separate £39m to the economy. Nearly 166,000 people from 80 countries attended the three-day festival, which is thought to have generated £88m for the wider Scottish economy.
By far the most popular element of the Christmas festival was its markets – the main inspiration to take in the festival cited by two thirds of visitors. They were named the best attraction of their kind in Britain during last year’s event, ahead of rivals like Bath, York, Bristol, Liverpool and Exeter.
Around a fifth of tickets sold were snapped up EH postcode holders, who benefit from an annual discount of 20 per cent. More than two thirds of local residents surveyed said events in the Christmas festival programme were the main draw for coming into the city centre.
Ed Bartlam and Charlie Wood, directors of Underbelly, said: “It’s fantastic to get this independent survey and read its findings of the vast economic impact that Edinburgh’s Christmas brings to the city and to Scotland.
“We’re very proud that it is now on the firmly on the map as a global winter destination, with sky-high levels of customer satisfaction and return visits, and visitors who consistently rate the event as their major reason for coming to Edinburgh. The survey shows that the event supports thousands of jobs but it’s also great to see how many residents also enjoy its attractions.”