Festivals-season is upon the Capital
There is just no doubt that tourism more widely, and the Edinburgh Festivals in particular, are of huge importance to the Capital City, and to Scotland as a whole.
And, as Edinburgh is about to fully enter the 2016 Festivals-season, it’s worth reflecting on the huge, overall value (in every sense of the word) that this time of year provides to our home City.
As the current Council Leader in Edinburgh, I do understand the importance to our local economy of tourism, and specifically of the Edinburgh festivals – I know that Scotland’s capital city is one of the most desirable tourist destinations in Europe, welcoming an astounding 4-million individual visitors a year … that’s 8 times the current resident-population of the whole City.
And Edinburgh also acts as the gateway to Scotland, with around 60% of visitors spending time in the Capital before seeing other parts of the country. The world-class cultural offer in Edinburgh is also a vital stimulus for the wider City Region’s significant creative and service industries.
Edinburgh’s cultural offer now centres on its 12 major festivals, which have unrivalled international appeal, and the year-round cultural infrastructure (providers and venues) which enable the festivals to thrive.
Indeed, just this week research has been published which confirms the huge contribution that Edinburgh’s Festivals make to the quality of life, international reputation and economic vitality of Edinburgh and Scotland.
This latest ‘Impact Study’, which surveyed 29,000 people during 2015, shows that Edinburgh’s Festivals continue to be Scotland’s world-leading cultural brand, delivering significant attendance numbers through their unrivalled cultural programmes.
Key findings from the study show that Edinburgh’s Festivals are now attracting specific audiences of over 4.5-million, which puts them on a par with the Football World Cup, and being second only to the Olympic Games. That’s right – last year, Edinburgh’s Festivals were the same size (in audience terms) as the Football World Cup; and there’s no reason to believe that this year we will see a similar, if not larger, audience attendance right here in Edinburgh.
And most crucially, this level of activity acts as a significant economic driver for Edinburgh and Scotland. Last year’s impact study showed that the Festivals generated some £280million for the local economy; and a further £313million was generated for the wider Scottish economy.
That economic activity provides a very real benefit to literally thousands of families here in Edinburgh – now supporting the equivalent of 5,660 full time jobs … with a further 6,021 full time jobs being supported Scotland-wide: all directly due to the Festivals.
The impact study also looked in detail at visitor’s impressions of Edinburgh as a result of their Festivals’ experience – key findings from this section of the study show that some 94% of respondents believe that the Festivals are part of what makes Edinburgh special as a city.
It’s also very clear that the Festivals create a sense of ‘civic pride’ with 89% of audience members agreeing that the Festivals increased their pride in Edinburgh as a city.
Amidst these visitor statistics, it really is crucial to remember that the Festivals also attract a huge number of Edinburgh residents as audience members.
For nine years now the Council – via an independent market research company - has undertaken a wide-ranging Edinburgh People Survey (EPS) to gauge the feelings of residents by asking quality of life issues.
Last year’s 2015 Edinburgh People Survey found that some 63% of residents had participated in the Festivals, which were the most common cultural activity for local citizens, while also showing that those participating in cultural activities were more likely to have a positive view of the Capital City.
All of this is obviously positive news as we approach 2017, and the 70th anniversary of the birth of Edinburgh as a Festival-City.
This 2015 ‘Impact Study’ (echoed by the findings of the 2015 Edinburgh People Survey) really do underline the very real value that our Festivals provide to our City; and remind us that our distinctive cultural offering remains the absolute envy of other cities around the world.
Cllr. Andrew Burns
Leader of the City of Edinburgh Council