Gordon Robertson: Heritage not enough to promote Capital

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SINCE being involved with Marketing Edinburgh I’ve learned a few things. Firstly, that some people seem to think that Edinburgh doesn’t need to be proactively promoted. Secondly, that marketing a city isn’t without its challenges.

There’s sometimes a perception that we’ve a castle and festivals and museums. Job done.

The reality is hugely different – it takes a lot of hard work, creativity and diplomacy to promote our city. And it’s only going to get harder as more competitor cities wake up to the value of tourism.

However, we have a great opportunity right now to transform Edinburgh’s promotion. Marketing Edinburgh has a three-year plan, funded by the city council to the tune of £1 million per year, and that provides a window in which we can explore how best to make the step change we need to compete at European and global levels.

The council should be congratulated for its approach. In these austere times prioritisation is difficult but it understands the value of a strong marketing message for Edinburgh. It understands the economic benefits of tourism and inward investment. It understands the value of Scots coming into the city and the contribution of our large student population.

Our city leaders are doing, in my opinion, what they should be doing – leading.

But others need to follow. The funding gives us a platform to change – to attract more private sector funding and transform our model. This is key. More businesses need to get on board and that’s the firm focus of the team at Marketing Edinburgh.

We want those who operate in the tourism area, who wish to attract investment, who want to attract students or the very best talent, who want to attract shoppers and diners to participate at the level that they can.

Step outside Edinburgh to compare the Capital with its European counterparts and the reality is bracing – Edinburgh’s promotional activity is fragmented, underfunded and under- resourced. We don’t need to promote less – we need to promote more. More money, more collaboration, more ambition, ultimately bringing more return to the city. That’s what Marketing Edinburgh is determined to deliver.

So, whilst it’s true that we have a stunningly good offer – rich in heritage, culture and topped with great shops, food, nightlife and so on – it’s not enough.

Amsterdam is an excellent comparison. Not actually much bigger than Edinburgh, it has cracked the funding conundrum and has benefited from excellent private sector support. The Marketing Edinburgh team has been working with its Dutch counterparts to learn how they do it and I hope we can bring some of their wisdom into play here.

But I don’t want to sit and gaze at Amsterdam or other cities. I want to improve what we’re doing and have these cities looking enviously at us.

The good news is that Marketing Edinburgh has shown through the current This is Edinburgh campaign that it can produce good quality work that is firmly focused on delivering for the city. John Donnelly and his team are getting on with the job of selling Edinburgh.

We cannot be complacent or apathetic. My role as chairman will be making sure that all those who want to contribute can and do.

These are exciting times for our city. We hope you agree and will join us in capitalising on it.

• Gordon Robertson is the new chairman of Marketing Edinburgh and director of communication at Edinburgh Airport