David Birrell: Investment vital for festivals

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There is a real sense of pride as the dust settles on a record-breaking festival summer in Edinburgh. The fact that Edinburgh Airport had the busiest August on record with more than one million passengers, and the Forth Ports Cruise team welcomed more than 18,000 cruise passengers, demonstrates how our festivals continue to attract even more visitors to the capital city each year.

Collaboration across all key business sectors is instrumental in helping us achieve a world class experience for local, national and international visitors.

Edinburgh is home to the world’s largest book festival, supported by a vast historical tradition of writing and publishing that lead to Edinburgh becoming the first Unesco city of literature. Similarly, Edinburgh – a city that is acknowledged globally for leading scientific and medical innovation – was the first in the world to host an international science festival.

This link between education and tourism is continuing to evolve and contribute to the success of the festivals. The Queen Margaret University-led Student Tourism Ambassador Roles (STARS), for example, were a great success, welcoming over 10,000 visitors to Edinburgh while providing valuable tourism information to participants.

As a market leader when it comes to festivals, we are undoubtedly under scrutiny from many aspiring cities who aim to build their own international profile. The creation of jobs, boost to tourism and providing of a platform to promote the country as a whole means that the economic benefits of the Capital’s festivals are felt right across Scotland, both in the public and private sector.

With such high dependence on the festivals to support the local and national economy, it is essential that we continue to develop the supporting infrastructure required to maintain and increase visitor levels.

The city is already benefiting from significant investment by the private sector, in accommodation and transport connectivity. Investment in improved digital infrastructure is also vital. Organisations such as Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce will help to facilitate and support much-needed developments.

By tapping into Edinburgh’s unique history and culture, as well as creating exciting new experiences for visitors, we can “future proof” the festivals to stay competitive in the global events calendar.

And as we say goodbye to another great festival summer and welcome back our students, who will no doubt help continue a party atmosphere in the city, we are now getting ready for Scotland’s New Year Festival with tickets already on sale for Edinburgh’s Hogmanay.

David Birrell is chief executive of Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce