Edinburgh Festivals pump £313m into economy

The end of the Edinburgh International Festival with over 4 tonnes of explosives and 400,000 fireworks choreographed to live orchestral music light up the sky against the iconic backdrop of Edinburgh Castle, in what is the largest annual fireworks concert in the world. Picture; Steven Scott Taylor
The end of the Edinburgh International Festival with over 4 tonnes of explosives and 400,000 fireworks choreographed to live orchestral music light up the sky against the iconic backdrop of Edinburgh Castle, in what is the largest annual fireworks concert in the world. Picture; Steven Scott Taylor
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The value of Edinburgh’s festivals has soared by almost a quarter to £313 million in the space of just five years, according to new research.

Flagship events like the Edinburgh International Festival, the Fringe, the Tattoo and the Hogmanay festivities are now attracting a record 4.5 million people each year, up by more than 250,000 in that period. They are also now supporting 6021 jobs – up by 26 per cent over the same period – according to findings released ahead of the 70th Edinburgh Festival season next month.

Festival Fringe on the High Street. Street performer Silver does his act 15/8/15

Festival Fringe on the High Street. Street performer Silver does his act 15/8/15

Major factors behind the growth in the value of the festivals includes the impact of new 
spectator stands used for the Tattoo, Fringe ticket sales soaring 17 per cent over the last five years, and the EIF’s box office income soaring to a record £3.8m. The research also found that 43 per cent of those surveyed said the festivals were their sole reason behind a visit to Scotland, up from 33 per cent in 2015, with 92 per cent describing the city’s events as “must-see,” compared with 79 per cent.

Festivals Edinburgh, the organisation which commissioned the research, said the findings would be used to bolster the case to maintain funding for the city’s main events in the event of a predicted “fiscal cliff” in the next few years.

Director Julia Amour pointed out that the record numbers had been achieved despite festival funding “flatlining” over the last five years thanks to extensive efforts to ensure that “world-class” programmes continued to be staged.

She also highlighted that the significant growth had been achieved in most areas despite a “stagnation” in household income across the UK, the eurozone crisis and the impact of the wider global economic downturn.

Edinburgh UK Jul 16 2016; Mardi Gras on the Grassmarket as part of the Edinburgh Jazz and Blues Festival. Pictured Durban Music School. . Picture Steven Scott Taylor

Edinburgh UK Jul 16 2016; Mardi Gras on the Grassmarket as part of the Edinburgh Jazz and Blues Festival. Pictured Durban Music School. . Picture Steven Scott Taylor

Ms Amour pointed out the new research had found that 89 per cent of local people felt that the festivals increased their pride in the city, while 94 per cent said the festivals were “part of what makes Edinburgh special as a city.”

Consultants BOP say Edinburgh’s year-round calendar of events was worth £280m to the city last year and £313m to the national economy – compared to £235m and £252m respectively when the last research was conducted in 2010.

Ms Amour said: “We’re very pleased that there has been such strong growth over the last five years and that the economic benefit of the festivals has gone up by almost a quarter.

“During that period, we’ve had the global recession following the financial crash, the eurozone crisis, which has affected some of our most important markets and the fact household incomes have flatlined in that time. For the festivals to have succeeded in continuing to grow so strongly is a real story of resilience for Scotland.

Edinburgh's Hogmanay street party is one of the many city events which combined are worth �313m to the Scottish economy. Picture: Jane Barlow

Edinburgh's Hogmanay street party is one of the many city events which combined are worth �313m to the Scottish economy. Picture: Jane Barlow

“Edinburgh’s festivals are on a par with the football World Cup in terms of scale. I think people in Edinburgh and Scotland, because it’s on their doorstep, don’t always realise what a mega event we have here. These findings are a very good reminder.

“It’s really significant that 92 per cent of respondents felt that Edinburgh’s festivals were must-see and events where they could find work that they could not see anywhere else. It’s a fantastic testament to the quality of the programming that the festivals are putting on. That is what drives all of the other benefits.

“The research shows the festivals are an even stronger draw for visitors than they were before, but they are also looking to make the most out of their trip to Scotland. Edinburgh is even more of a tourism gateway for the rest of Scotland than it’s ever been. These people wouldn’t otherwise be coming here.”

The new findings have been published a year after a study into the long-term future of the festivals warned of the need to ensure they did not “rest on their laurels and become complacent.”

Festival Carnival with parade from The Mound to the West End of Princes Street  and performances in Princes Street, Princes Street Gardens and the Grassmarket . Picture; Steven Scott Taylor

Festival Carnival with parade from The Mound to the West End of Princes Street and performances in Princes Street, Princes Street Gardens and the Grassmarket . Picture; Steven Scott Taylor

The second Thundering Hooves report, also published by BOP, warned “large-scale, radical solutions” were needed to replace eroding public funding in the festivals over the next decade.

It stated: “If current investment into the world-class programming of Edinburgh’s festivals is not maintained, their premier division status is at risk of relegation.”

BOP’s new study, which covered 12 major events held throughout 2015, said: “The festivals are a major contributor to both the local Edinburgh economy and the national economy. This impact spreads far beyond the immediate cultural economy. In fact, the biggest beneficiary businesses in Edinburgh and Scotland are those in the tourism, hospitality, and leisure sectors.

“Audience expenditure is dominated by staying visitors, as they spend more, stay for longer, and their expenditure is more likely to be genuinely additional. However, Scottish day visitor expenditure is proportionally more important to Edinburgh in 2015 than in 2010.”

Ms Amour added: “All our stakeholders are agreed that we need alternative funding mechanisms to invest in world-class programming and keep driving the benefits of the festivals.

“The key lesson for us is that the festivals have 
maintained a world-class offer during a period when core grants have flatlined.

“That’s becoming more difficult to do. We need to make sure that alternatives are found. We’re still talking to all of the different parties and several options are still being looked at. The very encouraging findings in this report mean there is a stronger case to ensure those alternatives are put in place.”

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said: “Edinburgh can quite rightly be proud of the stage it provides to our world-renowned festivals, and the hospitality it provides to visitors, performers, promoters and many others. These figures show not only are the festivals fantastic events, enjoyed by an audience of 4.5m in 2015 alone, but they have a huge economic 
impact.”

Andrew Burns – Page 16