Edinburgh winter festivals now rival summer events

EDINBURGH’S winter festivals are worth a staggering £242 million to the city, according to new research which suggests they are now more valuable than the capital’s world-famous summer events.

Edinburghs winter wonderland has seen soaring numbers of visitors. Picture: Phil Wilkinson

Almost a million people flocked to the city centre events during the most recent six-week run, which is said to have broken all previous attendance records.

And the value of the 44-day Christmas season, which was calculated based on spending from people visiting the city centre from outwith Edinburgh, is now said to dwarf that generated by the three-day Hogmanay programme, despite the latter’s huge international audience.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Research commissioned by promoters Underbelly and Unique Events, who are in the final year of a £3.9m contract, found that the Christmas programme was worth nearly £200m, with Hogmanay generating a further £42m.

Underbellys Charlie Wood welcomed the new figures. Picture: Neil Hanna

More than half a million people bought tickets for Christmas events last year – up 40 per cent on the previous year – while “footfall” figures at key sites were up by more than a third.

Christmas producers Underbelly, who were given a remit to “reinvigorate” the line-up by the council in the wake of concerns it had become too tacky, have created a new arena in St Andrew Square which hosts an ice rink and Fringe-style cabaret shows in an indoor venue.

The findings, from arts consultancy Culture Republic, mean the value of the festive events – which have been hugely expanded since Underbelly were brought in – is more than five times what it was when the last major research into both events was carried out a decade ago.

The last economic survey of the Hogmanay festival found it was worth £28m to the city when it was carried out five years ago. It was drawn from research which found all of the city’s major festivals were worth £244m to the city.

At that time the Fringe was valued at £142m while the Tattoo and book festival were said to bring in £34m and £5m respectively. However, the number of Fringe shows has shot up from 2,453 in 2010 to 3,193 last summer – an increase of almost a third in that period, with an extra 40 venues on board.

Underbelly director Charlie Wood said: “The research only counted people who said their sole or main reason for coming into the city centre was an event at Christmas or Hogmanay. The study effectively looked at new money that has come into the city, it doesn’t include people who stay in Edinburgh.

“A big part of the reason the Christmas figure is so high is that people are coming into the city at a time when they want to celebrate in bars and restaurants and also spend money on Christmas shopping. It’s a lot different from the Fringe when a lot of people just buy tickets for shows and have a few drinks. The Christmas programme also runs for twice as long.”

Pete Irvine, managing director of Unique Events, said: “We’re very pleased these figures bear out what we know, which is that Edinburgh’s Hogmanay and Edinburgh’s Christmas have an extraordinary effect on the winter economy of the city.

“Millions of people watch Edinburgh’s Hogmanay on television and the world comes to party at ‘the home of Hogmanay’. Now once again we can see they contribute hugely in return.”