Edinburgh gears up for first Chinese New Year festival

The National Museum of Scotland is one of the 'must-see sights for Chinese visitors. Photograph: Yao Hui
The National Museum of Scotland is one of the 'must-see sights for Chinese visitors. Photograph: Yao Hui
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Edinburgh is to stage its first Chinese New Year festival as part of a drive to promote the city as one of “Europe’s premiere China-friendly destinations”.

Two weeks of special events and promotions will be held across the city in February under a new phase of a “China Ready” initiative.

Visitor attractions, hotels, restaurants and retailers are being urged to get involved in the city’s biggest Chinese New Year celebrations.

Organisers of the festival, which will run from 2-17 February, say it is aimed at raising greater awareness and understanding of the festivities and Chinese culture.

However, it is also hoped to provide a boost to the capital’s tourism industry at one of the traditionally quietest periods for inbound visitors.

It is hoped that key buildings across the city will be lit up red to mark the festivities, special discounts will be offered and Chinese New Year window displays will be created.

Tens of thousands of copies of a guide to the best ways to celebrate Chinese New Year in Edinburgh will be distributed around the city.

Chinese treasures will be going on display in a new East Asia gallery, which will be unveiled at the National Museum of Scotland to coincide with the festivities, while other special events will be held at the Usher Hall, Royal Botanic Garden and Edinburgh Zoo.

Plans for the Chinese New Year festival have been revealed months after the first direct flight between Edinburgh and China was launched. It was a key target of a China Ready initiative launched three years ago by the Edinburgh Tourism Action Group.

Rob Lang, Edinburgh Airport’s head of marketing, who is also the chair of China Ready, said: “With a new direct air route, we’ve seen continued strong year-round growth in Chinese visitors and more and more businesses pulling together to welcome and benefit from this market.

“National holidays in China are a fantastic opportunity for the city, and a particular focus for Edinburgh to increase business during the quieter months of the year.

“We hope that visitors, residents and local businesses all get involved, maintain the incredible energy from Scotland’s Hogmanay celebrations and enjoy our contribution to one of the world’s largest cultural celebrations”

Richard Cooke, general manager at The Balmoral, said: “Chinese New Year is cause for celebration at The Balmoral and we are all looking forward to welcoming the Year of The Pig. Bao will be served at breakfast along with Balmoral Long Life Noodles.

“Ang pao and mandarins will be in all rooms as we wish everyone long life, happiness and prosperity.”

According to Edinburgh’s existing China Ready guide for businesses, many Chinese visitors have a “romantic perception” of the city and are also drawn here by its architecture, history and “year-round festive atmosphere”.

It also reveals they are keen to spend on luxury items, including tartan, cashmere and whisky. The highest-rated attractions include Edinburgh Castle and the Scott Monument.

Danny Cusick, Scottish Enterprise’s director of tourism, said: “It’s been fantastic to see the extent to which the Edinburgh tourism sector has come together to make the most of the amazing opportunity that the growth of the Chinese visitor market offers and the Edinburgh China Ready Initiative is a great example of how Scottish Enterprise supports industry through innovation, investment and international activity.

“The results speak for themselves, with Chinese visitor numbers increasing by 13 per cent in 2017 and the new direct Edinburgh–Beijing air route being launched in June 2018.”