Warning not to cut budget for tourism

NATIONAL tourism bosses today called for city leaders not to cut budgets for promoting Edinburgh to visitors - as new figures showed a "resilient" performance this year.

Mike Cantlay, chairman of VisitScotland, said that Edinburgh has an opportunity in 2011 to overtake struggling rival cities like Dublin that have been hit hard by the recession.

And he called on the Destination Edinburgh Marketing Alliance (DEMA) - the main body now responsible for promoting the city - to maintain the amount it spends on marketing. But the organisation is expected to face 11 per cent cuts to core funding from the city council in each of the next three years.

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Mr Cantlay, who took over the post of chairman of the national tourism agency earlier this year, said that investment in tourism could help drive Edinburgh's recovery from the recession.

His comments came after a new analysis of tourism data showed that hotels have enjoyed a strong year despite pressures like the ash cloud and bad weather, which both led to Edinburgh Airport being closed.

He said: "Our 'guerilla' marketing campaign (a series of campaigns designed to take advantage of uncertainty among tourists this summer) had a return of 20 for every 1 spent and a 20-1 return is the minimum we expect from any marketing activity.

"If you want to stimulate the economy, where would you get a better return?

"We all need to keep the foot down in terms of marketing spend and be confident because it will help drive economic recovery.

"VisitScotland (faces] a budget cut but I am still hoping we can maintain marketing spend through efficiencies."

New data compiled by VisitScotland today showed that hotel occupancy was up on last year in all but two months so far this year.

In the 2009/10 financial year, sales of the tourist smart card 'Edinburgh Pass' also soared by a third on 2008/09, to 12,500 sales.

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Visits to the Princes Street visitor information centre declined by 1.1 per cent, to 406,673. However, it is thought that the decline could be down to the growth of use of the internet and mobile phone applications by visitors.

The business case for Marketing Edinburgh, which is currently being formed by the merger of DEMA, Edinburgh Film Focus and the Edinburgh Convention Bureau, states that, while total council funding is expected to decline by 37 per cent to 1 million over the next three years, total funding is forecast to rise from 3m next year to 5m in 2013/14 because of increased private-sector contributions.