THE head of Edinburgh’s new marketing body has defended its track record after it emerged it had failed to generate any new income after almost a year in operation.
The Scotsman can reveal the capital is planning to launch a major new branding campaign later this year, following concerns that it is lagging behind rival UK cities when it comes to promoting itself.
But Marketing Edinburgh, set up last year by the city council, has not yet published a strategy as promised this month and is said to be “struggling” on a budget of less than £1.5 million, despite hopes that it would have more than double that at its disposal.
A detailed business plan has yet to be brought forward to Marketing Edinburgh’s board of directors, while the city council – which ploughed £1.2m into the fledgling organisation last year – has yet to sign off a new agreement for the current financial year. A director of marketing has yet to be hired.
Lucy Bird, its £110,000-a-year CEO, is believed to be coming under increasing criticism from the council and some senior industry figures, alarmed at a lack of progress over the past year. However, other sources have blamed the council for failing to put enough money into the organisation compared with similar bodies elsewhere in Britain.
Ms Bird insisted Marketing Edinburgh “membership packages” would generate the organisation’s core funding, but admitted these were still in development, with a formal launch not planned until later in the year.
The council decided to invest in an independent company after failing to get its own arm’s-length firm, the Destination Edinburgh Marketing Alliance, off the ground. Two existing companies – Edinburgh Convention Bureau, which specialised in business tourism, and Edinburgh Film Focus – were merged under the umbrella of Marketing Edinburgh last year. One source said: “Problems are stacking up. Lucy Bird has taken on a huge job in trying to raise several million pounds of new funding from the private sector in a very difficult climate.
“Greater results were expected by now and there has been a real lack of consultation with the tourism sector on what the organisation is going to be doing and why it is worth investing in.”
Ms Bird said more than 60 businesses had been consulted last autumn over what form her organisation should take, while the merger with Edinburgh Convention Bureau and Edinburgh Film Focus was taking time to bed in. Details of membership packages would be rolled out to “potential partners” within weeks, she insisted. “We’ve built strong, positive partnerships with organisations across the city, and are now building on those firm foundations to enable us to work in a range of effective partnerships to promote the city.”
Norman Springford, chairman of the Apex Hotels group, said: “Marketing Edinburgh is struggling. It hasn’t captured the support of the private sector yet and I’m not entirely sure why. Until that happens, and if it continues to rely on council funding, I don’t see a future for it.”