The International Congress and Convention Association (ICCA) global city rankings have landed and Edinburgh remains in the top 50 destinations among more than 400 cities across the world, retaining its number two position in the UK. But along with this great news is bad news - we’ve dropped five places from the year before, from 27th to 32nd.
The fall wasn’t a surprise. After a stellar year of results in 2016 – one of our strongest of the past decade – we were conscious of the potential negative impact the uncertainty surrounding Brexit would have on the industry. That, coupled with murmurings of a potential second Independence referendum, presented a challenging backdrop. But we love a challenge. These factors sparked the ambition to unveil the first ever collaborative business tourism campaign, Make It Edinburgh, made possible by the support of public and private organisations across the city, with funding of £80,000. And with a city to sell to the world, with so much to offer in terms of eclectic spaces, history, culture and thriving centres of excellence, I feel very positive about the future.
Eight months into the campaign, Make it Edinburgh’s effect has been hugely positive, with traffic to the website seeing an 89% increase on pageviews year on year. Realistically, this won’t translate into conferences immediately, but as with all things in this industry, new relationships create a ripple effect – and interest established now will lay the foundations for bookings in years to come. Especially given that Edinburgh is booming. Almost monthly, we see the city recognised as a top competitor. We were recently recognised as the UK’s fastest growing tech hub in 2017 and the UK’s top hotel investment hotspot outside London.
We continue to see huge names bring their business to Edinburgh. Richard Branson has chosen the capital for the first Virgin Hotel outside of the USA. A hub for inward investment, exciting developments across the city include retail and leisure complex Edinburgh St James, complete with a W Hotel, which will transform this district of the city when it opens in 2020. Emirates has just recently confirmed a new air route into Edinburgh from Dubai, and Hainan Airlines launch a direct flight to Beijing in June. All of this is testament to Edinburgh’s solid global position and reaffirms that our city is a destination to invest in, long term.
In the UK, Edinburgh is second only to London as the choice for event planners, and in 2017/18 we saw £75M contributed to the local economy as a result of meetings confirmed by Convention Edinburgh alone – that’s not including the additional financial impact of meetings managed out-with our organisation, in private venues. We’re in an incredibly strong position, with the business tourism industry proving a significant economic driver for Edinburgh.
Bolstered by these positive signs of investment, Make it Edinburgh shines a spotlight on the many reasons people should choose Edinburgh for their next conference or event, and at the pinnacle is our sector strengths - areas of knowledge unaffected by politics, in the face of what we knew would be a potentially uncertain time. Focusing on six key sectors that the city is thriving in - Technology, Food and Drink; Renewables; Creativity; Life Sciences; and Education - the twelve-month campaign has generated content that demonstrates how Edinburgh has advanced in the business tourism industry, and the value it can bring to meetings and events beyond the four walls of a venue.
Knowledge sharing knows no boundaries, and sitting out with the European Union (EU) won’t change Edinburgh’s status as a hub of excellence. Looking at other non-EU countries that are successful, such as Switzerland (sitting 17th in this year’s rankings), we absolutely can’t let geopolitics be a barrier between our areas of expertise and the rest of the world. There really has never been a more important time to Make It Edinburgh.