AN UNPRECEDENTED boom has struck Edinburgh as it welcomes thousands of visitors from China following successful social media campaigns and the launch of a direct flight from Beijing straight to the Capital.
The two-times-a-week, non-stop flights operated by Hainan Airlines are expected to bring an extra 29,000 Chinese visitors a year to the city.
Before the flights took off in June, the Chinese tourism market had already contributed £26.5 million to Edinburgh’s economy thanks to generous spending in the city’s hotels, shops, restaurants and visitor attractions.
The number of Chinese visitors to the city rose by 40 per cent in 2017, with Edinburgh Castle recording around 180,000 visitors of Chinese origin in the same period. Businesses on the High Street have already taken to displaying signs written in Mandarin and many are looking for staff fluent in the language. Popular visitor attraction, The Real Mary King’s Close, recently introduced a Mandarin audio guide.
Martin Reynolds, project manager for Edinburgh Tourism Action Group’s China Ready initiative, told the Evening News: “The great thing about Chinese tourists is that they visit at all times of the year and not just seasonally.
“VisitBritain research has shown that the average tourist spends four times as much as visitors from other countries.
“The tourism boom is partly down to the city’s reputation as an excellent centre of education. Chinese students bring friends and family over while they are here or recommend the city as a destination.”
The initiative spearheaded a social media campaign that promoted Edinburgh’s wealth of festivals and experiences, as well as its architectural and geographical beauty, on Chinese social media platforms. China Ready have already tapped into technological advances that will soon make China the first cashless society by encouraging businesses to utilise Chinese versions of mobile payments.
Adam Foster, founder of the EastWest Agency, Scotland’s only dedicated digital marketing agency, said: “The bridge between Edinburgh and China is shortened by digital technology.”
The agency helps Scottish businesses navigate Chinese social media and has worked with the Edinburgh Military Tattoo on their plans to expand to China by 2020.
Mandarin teacher Brooke Walker, who teaches in five state schools across the city, has been run off her feet since graduating last year. The young teacher was awarded funding from the Swire Chinese Language Foundation to extend the reach of Mandarin to more than 600 children in the Capital this year. She said: “I love teaching the language. It’s amazing seeing children changing their perceptions.” Jie Song, chair of the Chinese Arts & Culture Festival and owner of Wangping Travel on Dalry Road, recognises the need for Chinese-speaking tour guides as visitor numbers spike. She said: “Chinese students play an important role in the economy. I would like to see Edinburgh offer one or two-year industry placements for Chinese students so they can help local businesses.”