Edinburgh’s new Christmas attractions are a hit

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MORE than three quarters of a million people have already visited Edinburgh’s revamped Christmas attractions - despite claims they are too expensive and commercialised this year.

Underbelly, the London-based Fringe promoters called in to revitalise the capital’s festive offering, claimed footfall figures were up almost 25 per cent in some areas over the last two weeks.

The 60-metre tall Star Flyer towers above the stores on Princes street. Picture: Ian Rutherford

The 60-metre tall Star Flyer towers above the stores on Princes street. Picture: Ian Rutherford

And they said visitor numbers to both the giant ferris wheel and ice rink, two of the most popular attractions in Princes Street Gardens, were up on last year.

Underbelly director Charlie Wood said around 33,000 people had been on the giant London Eye-style wheel which has been introduced this year - more than half the total number attracted in 2012.

The second-most popular attraction since the Christmas programme got up and running on 22 November was the 60-metre tall Star Flyer, one of several features created inside a major new arena in St Andrew Square. It has already attracted more than 25,000 people, while the overhauled ice rink has seen almost 12,000 visitors.

Figures provided by business group Essential Edinburgh show the footfall figures for the whole city centre were up 13 per cent, with two monitoring areas on Princes Street and George Street up 24 and 20 per cent respectively.

Underbelly director Charlie Wood said: “Everything is still at an early stage, but all the indications we have seen show that the figures are substantially up on last year. The numbers really do speak for themselves.”

Andy Neal, chief executive of Essential Edinburgh, said: “The footfall figures for the last two weeks are very encouraging. They are an endorsement of both the Christmas attractions and the great bars, shops and restaurants in the city centre.”

Underbelly was awarded a three-year contract, worth £1.3 million, along with Edinburgh firm Unique Events, from the city council to jointly run the capital’s Christmas and New Year celebrations, which are worth more than £30 million to the city’s economy.

Steve Cardownie, the council’s festival and events champion, said: Underbelly promised that they would deliver something fresh and exciting for Edinburgh’s Christmas, while remaining true to the successes of years gone by.

“I have been extremely impressed by what I have seen thus far and, judging by these figures, I am not alone.

“With footfall up by almost a quarter in some areas year-on-year, the benefits are being felt by many more businesses in and around the city centre.”