Edinburgh tourism gets boost from new markets

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The number of tourists flocking to Edinburgh from China, South Africa and Denmark saw significant rises last year, according to figures released by VisitScotland.

The US remains the country from where most visitors to the Capital originate, though numbers actually dropped by 6.3 per cent between 2011 and 2012. However, the number of visitors from China grew by 43.4 per cent.

And the numbers could be set to rise even further, with representatives from Marketing Edinburgh and Festivals Edinburgh invited as special guests to last month’s World Tourism Cities Federation four-day conference in Beijing.

Carol Wilkin, from Marketing Edinburgh, said: “The Far East is a crucial emerging market for Edinburgh and Scotland and raising awareness of the Capital as a visitor and business destination will be a key objective during our visit.”

The links between China and the Scottish Capital have been growing in recent years, most notably with the loan of pandas Tian Tian and Yang Guang to Edinburgh Zoo. Earlier this month Edinburgh University became one of five UK higher education institutions to share in grants totalling £124,000 to work with scientists in China. Edinburgh Airport Chief Executive Gordon Dewar has also said it is only a matter of time before direct flights between Edinburgh and China are available.

The Evening News revealed in August that Edinburgh is the most popular destination for Chinese property investors in Scotland, with the number of nationals looking to make a move to the city increasing by 210 per cent between May and June 2013. Estate agent Savills said eight Chinese buyers had secured properties in 2012 – including three worth upwards of £1 million – compared with a single sale in 2011.

The growth in the Chinese middle class, and the rising popularity of Scottish exports such as whisky and golf are possible factors in the rise, along with Edinburgh’s reputation for academic prestige. The number of Chinese students taking up places at Edinburgh University rose from 992 in 2010-11 to 1600 in 2012-13.

However, the rise in visitor numbers from South Africa and Denmark is not so easy to explain. Between 2011 and 2012 the number of visitors from South Africa rose by a massive 208.4 per cent, while the number of Danish visitors leapt up by 173.1 per cent.

City culture and leisure leader Councillor Richard Lewis said: “Certainly the rise in the number of Chinese visitors can be explained by a number of factors, such as the increase in the Chinese middle class. However, the significant rise in the number of visitors from South Africa and Denmark is certainly very interesting. South Africa does have a large Scottish ex-pat population, but that doesn’t explain such a sudden jump.”

jen.lavery@edinburghnews.com