Tourists give Edinburgh top marks

The Castle is one of Edinburgh's main attractions. Picture: Ian Rutherford
The Castle is one of Edinburgh's main attractions. Picture: Ian Rutherford
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MORE than a third of visitors to Edinburgh have given their stay full marks, according to a major new survey which also shows tourists are spending more money in the city.

The quarterly Tourism in Edinburgh Survey, published today, which covers the period before the Festival, shows hotels are busier and visitor numbers are up, with growth in nine out of ten key measures.

Tourism industry figures and city leaders hailed the report and boasted that the Capital had attractions and accommodation to suit all budgets.

John Donnelly, chief executive of Marketing Edinburgh, the firm tasked with promoting the city across the world, said work to attract holidaymakers outwith the traditional festival period was paying off.

He said: “Lengthening the peak seasons and attracting visitors during the traditionally quieter months is a priority growth area for Edinburgh’s tourism industry and the survey results showing a year-on-year increase on last year is extremely promising.

“Having been voted the second best UK city in the prestigious Conde Nast Readers Award 2013 earlier this week, we are thrilled to see this 
reflected in the survey’s overall visitor experience rating, which positioned Edinburgh significantly above the average of our five competitor cities, including London.

“Value for money also scored highly in the visitor feedback, which is a great reflection of the quality tourism the city has to offer as a Unesco World Heritage site.”

The survey was carried out between April and June this year by Marketing Edinburgh alongside the city council, Essential Edinburgh and Scottish Enterprise. According to its figures, 34 per cent of visitors, the highest proportion, rated their visit to the city ten out of ten, with only one per cent giving the Capital half marks and none of those surveyed rating their visit any lower. Business confidence within the city has risen by 16.7 per cent on the same period in 2012, taking it to its highest level for three years.

Shopping, however, was the least cited reason for visiting the city, though officials encouraged retailers not to be disheartened, with footfall on Princes Street up 15 per cent.

Essential Edinburgh, which runs the city centre business improvement district, said the Capital had plenty to offer shoppers.

Chief executive Andy Neal said: “Edinburgh is an excellent destination for shoppers – it is the location of the only Harvey Nichols store in Scotland, and areas such as George Street offer many excellent stores, with many more international retailers hoping to gain a presence there.”

The Capital’s cultural offerings are also continuing to attract strong visitor numbers, although figures for Edinburgh Zoo and the various national museums across the city are down 14 per cent on the same period last year.

That’s despite the arrival of giant pandas Tian Tian and Yang Guang at the end of 2011 and the National Museum of Scotland being named the most popular visitor attraction outside of London in the wake of its revamp. The slump is in part thought to be down to bad weather driving more people indoors in 2012.

Half of those surveyed said one of the key reasons for their visit was to see Edinburgh Castle.

Nick Finnigan, executive manager at the Castle, said: “I am pleased to see that Edinburgh Castle continues to be such a popular attraction for visitors from around the world.

“With the Scottish Crown Jewels, the One o’Clock Gun, our popular historical enactors and spectacular events such as the world-famous 
Edinburgh Tattoo, Castle concerts and the dramatic firework displays, there is something for everyone to enjoy.”

City economic leader Councillor Frank Ross believes further good times await for the Capital, with the trams and planned expansion of Edinburgh Airport set to strengthen the city’s reputation as a tourist hub.

In two record-breaking months since the survey was carried out, more than two million passengers have passed through the airport.

Cllr Ross said: “Tourism is 
extremely important to our economy, bringing in over a billion pounds each year. Connectivity continues to improve with the upgrades to both Waverley and Haymarket rail hubs and the increased number of direct flights to Edinburgh. Edinburgh’s strong economic performance from a diversified base, combined with the reputation of being the ‘Festival City’, is all good news for our hotels. In June 2013 luxury hotel occupancy was the second highest in Europe, only behind Paris.

“On an all-hotel basis, Edinburgh was rated third highest in Europe.”

And the trend looks set to continue, with the report revealing advance hotel bookings for the following quarter – taking in the Open golf championship at Muirfield and the Festival – were up 3.2 per cent on the same period last year.

Douglas Campbell, head of sales at The George Hotel, said visitors were flocking back to Edinburgh after a downturn last year.

He said: “The Olympics led to a ten per cent drop in international tourists. We had made this up plus extra in 2013, and look forward to even better results next quarter. We already know that footfall on George Street was up 30 per cent over August and we feel the extra outside space worked well and helped draw people to the street.”

Tourism body VisitScotland branded the survey “extremely 
encouraging”.

Regional director Manuela Calchini said: “Edinburgh continues to charm visitors from all walks of life with its range of accommodation to suit all budgets and wide array of 
attractions. Added to this, the positive outlook for the next six months offers a tremendous boost.”

SO JUST WHO IS YOUR TYPICAL TOURIST?

Contrary to popular belief, which usually has the usual Edinburgh tourist pegged as someone of retirement age, the typical visitor to the Capital is actually most likely to be between the ages of 25 and 34, with 29 per cent falling within this age gap.

The typical tourist is likely to spend the most of their money on accommodation, and the least on transport. More than a quarter of visitors, the highest proportion, will stay in a mid-range quality hotel, with budget hotels the next most popular at 15 per cent. eating and drinking was the second biggest spend, followed by shopping.

However, tourists are most likely to visit Edinburgh because of its status as a historic centre, rather than for its choice of retailers, bars and restaurants. Edinburgh Castle alone was cited as the second most popular reason to visit, with a combination of the city’s other attractions coming third.

The highest proportion of visitors to the Capital are likely to have read about it on TripAdvisor, with books and VisitScotland the second and third top choices for gathering information.