Edinburgh winter festivals worth £242m for city

EDINBURGH’S winter festivals are now 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.

The city's Christmas celebrations are worth a fortune to the local economy. Picture: Joey Kelly

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 to provide events, found that the Christmas programme was worth nearly £200m, with Hogmanay generating a further £42m.

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 producer Underbelly was given a remit to “reinvigorate” the seasonal line-up by the council in the wake of concerns it had become too tacky. Underbelly created a new arena in St Andrew Square which hosted an ice rink and 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 was 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 analysis of the Hogmanay festival, carried out five years ago, found it was worth £28m to the city. The figure was drawn from research which found all of the city’s major festivals were worth £244m.

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 2453 in 2010 to 3193 last summer – an increase of almost a third – with an extra 40 venues now 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 Hogmanay and Christmas have an extraordinary effect on the winter economy of the city.

“We know millions of people watch Edinburgh’s Hogmanay on global television news and that the world comes to party at ‘the home of Hogmanay’. Once again we can see they contribute hugely in return.”

Julie Tait, chief executive of Culture Republic, said: “It’s clear to see Edinburgh’s winter festivals are going from strength to strength.”