Edinburgh Tattoo sees increase in Chinese sales with online ticket deal

Massed pipes and drums at last years Tattoo. Picture: Ian Georgeson
Massed pipes and drums at last years Tattoo. Picture: Ian Georgeson
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One of Scotland’s signature events is poised to make a breakthrough into the lucrative China market after signing a ticket sales deal with one of its biggest technology giants.

The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo is to introduce a dedicated live Chinese booking system from next year under the “game-changing” partnership with the operators of WeChat.

The Tattoo plans to harness China’s biggest social media network by allowing its tickets to be sold on its fast-growing mobile payment system.

The move by the Tattoo, thought to be the first business in Scotland to strike a deal with WeChat Pay, is expected to help build interest in the event ahead of its planned first staging in China in 2020. It is hoped boosting the Chinese audience will increase the chances of landing its first deal to broadcast the entire show to the whole country.

More than 150,000 Chinese people now visit Edinburgh Castle each year. The Tattoo’s Chinese ticket sales rose 89 per cent in 2015-16.

Brigadier David Allfrey, chief executive and producer of the Tattoo, said the deal would help its efforts to contribute to what he described as a golden era for UK-China relations.

It has emerged from a “China Ready” initiative aimed at capitalising on Edinburgh’s position as the UK’s second most visited city for Chinese tourists, after London.

Brigadier Allfrey said: “This is all about making it much easier for Chinese customers to come to the Tattoo. We’ve increasingly got two sets of them now – those that come here with tour companies and private individuals.

“I’ve seen WeChat Pay work incredibly effectively myself. It’s managed to very cleverly combine what we have with Facebook and PayPal in one application. You can now conduct almost any kind of transaction on it. It’s almost like a contactless credit card.”

Roddy Gow, founder and chairman of the Asia Scotland Institute, which helped broker the Tattoo’s deal, said: “We believe that this is a very significant step in building really strong links between Scotland and China.

“Unlocking the ability of Chinese visitors to pay for services and goods is the beginning of what could have a transforming influence on a number of different sectors.”

The Tattoo is working with several Chinese performers on the line-up for the 2018 event in Edinburgh to coincide with the launch of the Tattoo on the WeChat Pay platform, which is used by about 800 million users paying for meals, hotel stays and travel tickets. It is hoped the Tattoo’s Chinese campaign, the spin-off benefits of new visitors to Edinburgh and related marketing campaigns could generate an additional £20 million for the tourism industry by 2020. The Tattoo is in talks to stage a Chinese tour of up to three weeks that year, taking in Beijing, Shanghai and Juan Gzhou.

Rob Lang, Edinburgh Airport’s head of marketing, who is also chair of Edinburgh’s “China Ready Delivery Group,” said: “Mobile payment options are increasingly the preferred payment method for the Chinese.

“Providing this service in Edinburgh will encourage additional visitor spend.”

Denise Hill, head of market strategy and development at VisitScotland, said: “As one of the biggest outbound travel markets in the world, China offers huge future potential for our industry.

“We were delighted to include the Tattoo on a business development mission to China last year and we’re very excited to see one of Scotland’s iconic tourism businesses demonstrating to Chinese travellers that Scotland is ready to do business with them on their digital channel of choice.”