Brexit: Cash boost for Capital as tourist spending up 24%

Scott Findlay and Molly Shaw, seven, enjoy Christmas shopping on Princes Street. Picture: Ian Georgeson
Scott Findlay and Molly Shaw, seven, enjoy Christmas shopping on Princes Street. Picture: Ian Georgeson
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“BREXIT tourists” brought the Capital some extra Christmas cheer as it emerged spending over the festive season soared in 2016.

According to the latest figures, visitors to Edinburgh spent 24 per cent more last month than in December 2015.

The surge in spending is thought to be worth an extra £12 million to the Capital’s shops, bars and restaurants, with experts pointing to the weak pound and Edinburgh’s Christmas attractions as contributing factors.

It comes just days after it emerged Edinburgh’s Christmas enjoyed a record-breaking year and that an estimated 500,000 tourists came to the city over the festive season.

Gordon Henderson, senior development manager in the Scottish branch of the Federation of Small Businesses, said it was reasonable to expect the success of Edinburgh’s Christmas to prompt more spending.

He said: “I think the other big reason is the pound is dirt cheap so of course spending is up because overseas visitors are coming to Edinburgh, enjoying having a lot of pounds for their Euros.

“Edinburgh has an international reputation as the place to go for Christmas and New Year. It’s good news for the city.”

Mr Henderson said the Capital’s increased spend reflected what retailers had told him, but said it was “too early to tell” about the impact of Brexit.

He added: “You could say Brexit should make no difference to holiday-making and coming to Scotland.

“But then you could also ask the question what percentage of international visitors to Edinburgh are visiting Europeans or European workers? You can’t answer that until you know how European workers are going to be treated.

“It’s really good they [tourists] come but we mustn’t rest on our laurels – we must be doing all we can to make sure Edinburgh remains a fantastic place to visit.”

The figures, from credit and debit card processor Worldpay, showed bargain-hunting tourists were worth £725m to UK shops in the build-up to Christmas – £130m more than last December.

They also reported high-street spending on foreign bank cards last month was up 22 per cent on December 2015.

John Donnelly, chief executive at Marketing Edinburgh, agreed the weak pound, Christmas and Hogmanay were all factors. He said: “Another reason specifically to Edinburgh is the success of the airport and that they have now gone over 12 million passengers in a year. The route development helps bring in tourists. It’s something we really welcome.”

Economy leader Councillor Gavin Barrie, said: “Added to greater footfall than ever before at our Edinburgh’s Christmas attractions, it is clear the success of the city over the festive season rests on much more than a weakened pound.”

florence.snead@jpress.co.uk