Festival big wheel set to rake in £1m

Clare Slifer holds her daughter Sadie with her older daughter Esme, centre, and their friends, from left, Rhona and Fraser Wilson, on the wheel. Picture: Lisa Ferguson
Clare Slifer holds her daughter Sadie with her older daughter Esme, centre, and their friends, from left, Rhona and Fraser Wilson, on the wheel. Picture: Lisa Ferguson
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The inaugural Festival big wheel is expected to generate around £1 million for operators Underbelly.

More than 2000 sightseers paid to ride pods on Edinburgh’s giant Ferris wheel in the first two days of operation – fuelling hopes of a bumper pay-day for the city.

The traditional summer tourist influx and brighter evenings are likely to see numbers soar well above the 120,000 who rode the attraction during Edinburgh’s Christmas time.

A lucrative deal signed with Underbelly includes a profit-sharing agreement that should see city coffers boosted with a £250,000 windfall, if the ride hits achieves its visitor target.

Ticket sales of 2,268 in the first 20 hours of operation have been hailed “very encouraging” by organisers – particularly as they come on weekdays and before the August festival screams into action. Each ticket costs £8 but Edinburgh families can receive a 20 per cent discount by showing ID with an EH postcode. Any cash boon achieved from the ride will be invested into the renovation and maintenance of Princes Street Gardens.

Councillor Steve Cardownie, Edinburgh’s festival and events champion, said the revenue will support “improvements” to the green space and monuments within the city centre gardens helping to “maintain them as a beautiful place to visit in Edinburgh”.

He said: “I am especially pleased that a special discount will be offered to Edinburgh residents and I encourage families from across the city to visit Princes Street Gardens for a great view of the Capital.”

Scottish tourism chiefs said the colossal attraction – standing 42 metres tall – is a unique festival draw for visitors.

Manuela Calchini, regional director of VisitScotland, said: “New attractions, such as the Big Wheel on Princes Street, are always popular with visitors. It is a fantastic way to experience Edinburgh’s iconic landmarks from an entirely new perspective, not to mention on a clear day it is a chance to enjoy stunning panoramic views of the Capital and the surrounding areas.

“Edinburgh is beginning its busy summer season when thousands of visitors from across the world descend on the Capital to experience the stunning attractions and soak up the sights and sounds, especially this year as we welcome the world for the Commonwealth Games, Homecoming and of course the famous Edinburgh festivals. I’m sure the Festival Wheel will be a thrilling new addition to the city’s world-class tourism offering.”

Charlie Wood, director of Underbelly and operator of the Festival Wheel, said early ticket sales had been encouraging and he hoped many more customers would take to the skies for panoramic views of Edinburgh while listening to extracts from Festival shows via speakers in the 36 enclosed pods.

The Festival Wheel will run every day, between 10am and 10pm, until August 31.