Commonwealth Games ‘will boost Edinburgh tourism’

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THE Capital’s tourism industry is set for a boost from this year’s Commonwealth Games – even though most of the events take place on the other side of the country.

Industry leaders say the excitement of the Games in Glasgow in the summer will generate new interest in Scotland as a whole and the Capital’s already high profile means it will benefit, even though only diving events will be held here.

More tourists than ever are expected to visit Edinburgh on the back of the Commonwealth Games. Picture: Jane Barlow

More tourists than ever are expected to visit Edinburgh on the back of the Commonwealth Games. Picture: Jane Barlow

This year also sees Scotland hosting the Ryder Cup at Gleneagles and events marking the 700th anniversary of the Battle of Bannockburn as part of a Year of Homecoming.

2014 and beyond will be a key theme at the annual Edinburgh Tourism Action Group conference tomorrow.

ETAG chairman Robin Worsnop said: “In terms of international profile, all these events put Scotland on the map and Edinburgh, as the number one destination for international visitors, is going to benefit.”

As well as visitors coming to watch the Commonwealth Games, there would be many athletes and support staff needing accommodation. “If that fills up Glasgow, there may be a displacement to Edinburgh,” Mr Worsnop said.

“And never forget, these two cities are 45 minutes apart by train. It’s quicker to get from the centre of Edinburgh to the centre of Glasgow by rail than to take the tube from east London to west London – and much more pleasant.”

The conference will also hear from Chris Buckingham, former chief executive of Destination Melbourne, which is the inspiration behind a leadership development programme launched last year for tourism businesses in Edinburgh.

Mr Buckingham said there were strong parallels between Edinburgh and Melbourne.

He said: “Melbourne is probably the most cultured of Australian cities. We love our art and we love our food and wine. The city is 150 years old – I know Edinburgh is much older, but there is a real celebration of inner urban life and built architecture.”

Mr Buckingham said domestic and international tourism to Melbourne had grown steadily over the past decade, but the leadership programme fostered closer collaboration. He said: “There is a sense that by working together everyone achieves a bit more. It’s a case of growing the cake instead of fighting for your share of it.”

But he added: “It’s all very well presenting your city as the most beautiful and attractive, but what is important is the quality of the visitor experience when people come to your city.”

David Wilson, chief operating officer at Edinburgh Airport, who is involved in the programme, said working together and sharing information was key to continuing the city’s success in tourism.

He said: “Edinburgh is a fantastic destination, but none of us should be complacent about the choice that visitors have in terms of other cities in Europe and further afield.”

He highlighted new flights from Edinburgh to Philadelphia, Chicago and Qatar starting later this year. And he said increasing availability of information on where visitors were travelling from could open the door to more direct routes for the Capital.

“That can only be positive in increasing tourism and bringing people into the city.”

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HOW can Edinburgh’s literary fame bring more visitors to the Capital?

Ali Bowden, director of Unesco City of Literature, is trying to mobilise a spread of different organisations to work more closely together.

She has won support from Scottish Enterprise to launch a literary tourism toolkit, helping businesses tap into the city’s literary heritage and boost visitor numbers. “We have great things in the city, but there has not always been a co-ordinated effort to make the most of it,” she said. “The Edinburgh International Book Festival is the largest of its kind in the world – but that’s in August and we need year-round activities based on literature. We have everything we need It’s a matter of pulling it together and making it work for us.”