Making sure Edinburgh keeps its reputation as one of the world’s best places to visit or live takes a lot of hard work, writes Gordon Robertson
Edinburgh is the UK’s most prosperous city outside London. Measure it against any indicator you like – visitor numbers, international investment, employment rates, entrepreneurial start-ups – Edinburgh’s performance is strong. Its solid reputation as one of the top places in the world to live, work, visit and invest continues to build momentum.
So why bother proactively promoting a city that “sells itself”?
The reality is very different. Edinburgh operates on a global stage and competes for business against many other successful UK, European and worldwide cities. This fierce environment demands that we have to continually improve if we even want to maintain our current position in this marketplace. The world isn’t sitting waiting to see what Edinburgh is going to do.
It takes a lot of hard work, creativity and diplomacy to promote our city. Collaboration, particularly between public and private sector is critical. This is the crucial role Marketing Edinburgh plays in our city’s development. Acting as a catalyst and facilitator, diving economic activity, it is its responsibility to showcase Edinburgh as an inspirational destination to the rest of the UK and globally.
There have been challenges over recent years, but thanks to a cohesive three-year strategy, implemented and led by Marketing Edinburgh’s chief executive John Donnelly, the organisation has come a long way in a short space of time. Building a solid reputation and delivering tangible, measureable results for the city.
2014 was one of Marketing Edinburgh’s strongest to date, seeing a significant and positive shift upwards for the organisation as we built on the confidence and credibility gained in 2013. Thanks to the hard work of Convention Edinburgh and its members, for example, 208 new conference bid wins were secured last year. This equates to 65,000 delegates coming to Edinburgh, over the next few years and generating an estimated £91.5m plus to the local economy. Edinburgh is now ranked the 31st global city in the prestigious ICCA world rankings, nine places higher than last year.
The This is Edinburgh campaign, spearheaded by Marketing Edinburgh in partnership with the City of Edinburgh Council and Essential Edinburgh, is another strong example. The campaign has played a pivotal role in wooing shoppers and residents back to the city centre. Through TV advertising, special offers, partnerships and exciting events, such as Edinburgh Fashion Week, Film in the City and the Edinburgh Restaurant Festival, This is Edinburgh has had an overwhelmingly positive impact on the city.
Not only has it brought a significant increase in footfall and retail sales, but people are genuinely more positive about their home city. A survey conducted earlier this year found 95.6 per cent of people interviewed felt much better and prouder about Edinburgh’s city centre than they did at the start of the campaign in 2014.
These results have vindicated Marketing Edinburgh’s key role in the creation and delivery of the campaign, and confidence in the organisation has moved significantly forward as a result. It also demonstrates the opportunity and future potential we can unleash as a city by working more effectively together, for the benefit of all.
2015 is an evolutionary year for Marketing Edinburgh, one in which we are shifting resource and focus. We’re all acutely aware of the current and future, fiscal restrictions that the public sector faces. As such we have to be inventive and creative in how we secure additional funding to augment the public investment in promoting the city, and to a level which elevates us, at least, to an equal level with our UK and International competitors.
The Corporate Partnership Programme is one way Marketing Edinburgh is addressing this challenge. With prestigious organisations such as the University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh Airport and Edinburgh Hotels Association already signed up, we are actively seeking new corporate partnerships with a range of private sector organisations, who also recognise the benefits a strong Edinburgh brings to their own company and its employees.
From airlines and train operators, to construction, technology and professional services sectors, this is about building and cementing Marketing Edinburgh’s relationship with the city and its stakeholders.
By investing emotionally, as well as financially in their home-town, businesses can play a proactive role in helping grow their city.
In return, Marketing Edinburgh can work with Partners, closely aligning Edinburgh’s assets to create joint campaign activity around shared, common objectives for the city and business.
This can range from helping to attract fresh talent to work in the city’s growing tech industries, to raising awareness in North America of the city’s unique and diverse business tourism offering.
One such corporate partnership campaign, for example, has already secured over £17m worth of potential enquiries for hotel and conference partners.
Marketing Edinburgh one driving ambition is promotion of the city. There is no ulterior motive. This puts the organisation in a unique position, enabling it to rally partners, build collaboration and give Edinburgh one cohesive voice that can cut through the noise of the global marketplace and in turn, help its partners’ businesses flourish. Marketing Edinburgh is the conduit, the honest broker in the middle of all that – if the city does well, we all do.
• Gordon Robertson is Chairman, Marketing Edinburgh