HOW reassuring to find that Edinburgh is more than holding its own as one of the world’s most popular tourist and visitor attractions.
New figures show that many of the historic and cultural centres in the city are not only attracting more visitors than ever, but that they are also outperforming the rest of the UK, including London.
Edinburgh Castle, the Royal Botanic Garden in the Capital and the Scottish National Gallery are among the most magnetic attractions.
They boasted an average increase of 5.5 per cent last year, compared to 3.2 per cent across the UK and 1.6 per cent in London. Both Edinburgh Castle and the National Museum of Scotland made it into the UK top 20, with a combined audience of more than three million.
Indeed, the National Museum, the most popular in the UK outside London, brought in more visitors than the National Maritime Museum, Tate Britain, London Zoo and the Eden Project.
Meanwhile Edinburgh Castle, Scotland’s busiest attraction, enjoyed a six per cent rise in visitors, notching up a record 1.6 million people.
These figures are a tribute to all those who work to ensure that our museums, galleries and historic treasures maintain their élan and appeal against increasing competition.
Heavy visitor footfall brings its own share of challenges and demands. Not least among these is to ensure that Edinburgh maintains its appeal as one of the world’s most beautiful cities, with well-maintained gardens, clean streets and pleasant thoroughfares.
And then there is the attendant challenge of ensuring that our transport and hospitality infrastructure is maintained in top order.
It’s often said that the Capital cares more about its heritage and its cultural attractions than attending to the demands of economic growth and business formation.
But this is to miss the point that tourism is itself a powerful economic stimulant, promoting commerce and spending across a wide range of activities in the Capital.
And it also helps to augment Edinburgh’s appeal as an outstanding international conference centre, binging in business executives and potential investors from around the world.
Too often we groan about the influx of visitors without considering the benefits. That the Capital’s attractions are more than holding their own is an achievement and should be an enormous source of pride.