A bumper weekend was under way in the Capital as tens of thousands of revellers began to swell the city’s population – pumping more money into the economy this weekend than during the entire Hogmanay celebrations.
Edinburgh is set to be at “bursting point” throughout today and tomorrow as the last days of the Festival coincide with the Scotland v Italy rugby match, the Edinburgh Mela and a Hibs home game.
And with more than 40,000 tickets sold ahead of today’s rugby fixture – and even more fans expected to turn up on the day – shops, pubs and local businesses are looking forward to a hefty cash boost.
It is estimated the Capital will rake in almost £100 million over the next two days as tourists throng the streets and reach for their wallets as the month-long festivities draw to their spectacular close.
Triumphant city chiefs hailed a “bumper weekend in the city” – and insisted Edinburgh will be “buzzing”.
And experts indicated this year’s festival season could be Edinburgh’s most successful to date, with booming ticket sales and swelling visitor numbers.
But transport chiefs warned of longs queues and “particularly challenging” conditions as crowds surge into the city centre to grab a slice of the action.
Rail bosses urged passengers to be prepared for busy trains and increased waiting times, with ScotRail pledging to run every carriage at its disposal.
Queuing systems were set to be in place at Waverley and Haymarket, with dozens of extra staff on the ground to help ease the crush.
A ScotRail spokesman said: “We’re running extra services and carriages but this last weekend in August is going to be particularly challenging.
“Our advice is – buy your tickets in advance, be prepared for busy trains and allow extra time to get there and back, as you may have to queue to board. We would like to thank people for their patience at this hugely busy time.”
Murrayfield bosses, meanwhile, revealed ticket sales had topped previous records for a summer friendly match.
And with pre-match entertainment coming from Fringe favourites Hot Dub Time Machine, they urged fans to leave plenty of time to travel to ensure they get there early.
The much-anticipated rugby fixture will be Scotland fans’ last chance to get behind the team on home soil before they depart for the World Cup.
Dominic McKay, of Scottish Rugby, said: “Continuing to see high ticket sales at BT Murrayfield, following on from the two sell-out games in the RBS Six Nations earlier this year, is a credit to our fantastic supporters who always get behind the team.
“For this Summer Test we have pulled out all of the stops to ensure that fans will be able to enjoy a fun and entertaining match-day experience.”
Businesses across the Capital were gearing up to play host to the influx of rugby fans joining the Festival hordes – with the city’s myriad drinking holes expected to be at the forefront of the onslaught.
Kayley Barber, event co-ordinator at the Three Sisters pub in Cowgate, said staff were expecting up to 4000 people to stream through the door today.
But she insisted her team was well-prepared for the extra crush – with a 200-inch television set up in the courtyard to show the big game.
She said: “We’re expecting to be really busy because we do have so much going on. But we’ve been busy all through the Festival, so I’m sure we can handle it.”
John Donnelly, chief executive of Marketing Edinburgh, said ticket sales pointed to the biggest and best Festival to date – with this Bank Holiday weekend shaping up to be “one of the biggest summer weekends the city has ever seen”.
He said: “The August festivals make a huge contribution to Edinburgh’s economy and it’s not just the hotels and attractions that benefit. It’s hard to quantify at this stage what the exact value of the next few days will be, but to give an indication of visitor numbers and economic impact, the 2015 three-day Hogmanay Festival attracted 80,908 unique visitors and generated around £97m for the local economy.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if we are looking at similar, if not higher, figures for this weekend.”
Councillor Richard Lewis, the city’s festivals and events champion, added: “[Monday’s] Virgin Money Fireworks Concert is one of the largest events of its kind in the world and this spectacle alone continues to draw visitors in their thousands.
“Add to that the crowds coming to see the Scotland v Italy rugby match and visitors packing in as many Festival shows as they can, Edinburgh will be buzzing.
“It’s going to be a bumper weekend in the city.”
Police urged residents and visitors alike to keep belongings close at hand as the crowds swell.
Superintendent Phil O’Kane said: “We have worked tirelessly to ensure the safety and enjoyment of festival-goers and both local and national resources have been utilised to ensure a high visibility policing presence, and offer first-hand crime prevention advice wherever needed.
“Our policing operation has been a great success in keeping visitors and residents safe throughout this busy festival period, with a number of individuals arrested and charged following incidents reported during the festival.
“During the upcoming weekend, we’d advise all visitors to ensure they plan their journeys well in advance for what will be a busy few days for the city.
“This should be an enjoyable weekend. However, I would urge the public to take care and always maintain an awareness of their surroundings, keeping belongings close by and valuables out of sight at all times.”