Rugby fans are cutting short their Six Nations visits to Edinburgh because they cannot afford the traditional long weekend in the city, tourism experts have admitted.
The Edinburgh Hotels Association has admitted some fans are spending as little as one night in the city compared to as many as three or four in previous years.
However, the trade body has insisted the era of austerity and a decline in disposable income is to blame for the slump in Six Nations spin-offs rather than the price of accommodation in Edinburgh during peak periods.
The Principal chain is charging £642 and £707 for a room in its respective hotels on George Street and Charlotte Square on the night of the sold-out Scotland-England fixture next month,
It is understood the changing demographic of ticket-buyers for fixtures at BT Murrayfield may also be behind the decline in people booking extended trips in the city, with a move away from “lads’ weekends” to couples combining a visit to the city with a match,
Four years ago the Six Nations tournament was valued at being worth around £52 million to the Scottish economy when England and France were hosted at Murrayfield.
However, its value had dropped to £45m by the time last year’s fixtures against Wales, Ireland and Italy were staged.
Russell Imrie, spokesman for the Edinburgh Hotels Association, said: “The really big rugby fixtures, against Wales, England and France, still fill the city. There is no change in the volume of people in the city, but the number of people coming here for an extended stay is definitely down.
“But I think the budgets of the people coming here are tighter than they used to be. They are definitely not coming for as long as they used to. They are now coming for the match and will stay that night, but will travel home the next day, whereas a few years ago they would make it a three or four night stay. For the majority, those days have gone.
“I don’t think it’s anything to do with the city or the offer that we have, I think it’s just that people don’t have the same disposable income.”
Ali McPherson, spokesman for the Edinburgh Taxi Association, said: “The major reason for the change is the fact that many matches are played on a Saturday night or a Sunday afternoon now.
“It’s not like years gone by when we used to get people coming here for three or four days at a time. We’re really busy on the day of a match now and that’s about it. It’s not anything like it used to be and that is hitting all the service industries in the city.”
A spokesman for Scottish Rugby said: “You only have to look at how hard it is to get a ticket for a Six Nations fixture at Murrayfield these days.
“We sold out all three matches against Wales, Ireland and Italy, we’ve already sold out the games against England and France this year, and we also sold out all the autumn internationals for the first time last year.”
Gavin Barrie, economy convener at Edinburgh City Council, said: “The Six Nations bring a tremendous economic boost to the city at a time outwith the busy winter and summer festival months. A wide variety of businesses across a number of sectors benefit from the Six Nations and there is always a great buzz on match days.”