Tourism strategy announced - impact on Edinburgh’s hotel sector

Thursday 2, February 2012


Tourism strategy announced - impact on Edinburgh’s hotel sector


At the seventh annual Edinburgh Tourism Action Group (ETAG) conference the Minister for Enterprise, Energy and Tourism, Fergus Ewing MSP, announced details of the Edinburgh 2020 Edinburgh Tourism Strategy and outlined the key recommendations for ensuring the continued success and growth of Edinburgh’s tourism sector.


The ambitious strategy, which is a result of extensive research and over 150 individual consultations with tourism related businesses, including the city’s hotels and hospitality sector, sets out a clear vision and targets for the industry to achieve by 2020. 


Edinburgh punches significantly above its weight, with arrivals, spend and bed-spaces per capita all above its UK peers, as too are holiday and business visitor numbers. The city provides 1,000 year-round accommodation operators, offering more than 13,000 bedrooms.  


Over the last 20 years, hotel room occupancy has grown from 57% in 1990 to 77% in 2010, with Edinburgh also outperforming most of its peer cities in Europe. Clearly, the growth of the hospitality sector is a critical part of the strategy, both in terms of the volume and value of accommodation available. Investment in the sector currently includes 1,400 new rooms to be delivered by 2013 and substantial refurbishment projects at two of the city’s five star hotels – The Sheraton Grand and the Caledonian Hotel. 


Chair of ETAG, Robin Worsnop said: “The past 20 years have seen a remarkable transformation in the scale and nature of Edinburgh’s tourism industry and its impact on the economic, social and cultural life of the city.  Once a highly seasonal destination, dominated by leisure tourism, Edinburgh now has a rich, diverse year-round industry, with a very strong, high yield conference and meetings sector. Tourism-related employment, including the hotel and hospitality sector, has gone up from 12,000 in 1989 to 32,000 today. 


“Now, at the beginning of 2012, the UK and Europe economies are seeing a further downturn, the length, depth and impact of which is uncertain.  In Scotland and the UK in general, continuing economic uncertainty and major cuts in public expenditure will have significant implications for consumer demand and on the scale and nature of investment in destination development, management and marketing activity. 


“One of the key priority areas identified in the strategy for Edinburgh 2020 is to ensure the ‘highest quality of visitor experience in order to maximise satisfaction, extend visitor stays and expenditure’. Developing our hotel and hospitality offering to be a major reason for visitors to choose Edinburgh will be crucial in achieving this goal, especially with repeat visits to the city accounting for approximately 50% of Edinburgh’s leisure visits every year.” 


The Edinburgh Tourism Strategy sets out three clear objectives to achieve by 2020, supported by specific and measurable growth targets:

  • Objective 1: the target is to increase the number of visits by one third: from 3.27m visits to 4.39m visits, generating an additional 4.15 million visitor nights, an increase of 3% per annum.
  • Objective 2: increase the value of every visitors’ spend by 10%: The target is to increase spend from £310.40 to £341.44 per visitor trip. Combined with increasing the number of visitors by a third, this will generate an additional £485 million per annum by 2020, taking the total visitor spend from £1.015bn to £1.5bn in today’s prices.
  • Objective 3: reduce seasonality across the sector: The target is to achieve 50% of the additional growth during the months of October to March and reduce the current 40:60 split in visits to 43:57 between October to March and April to September. 


Marion McKean, General Manager of Whitbread’s Premier Inns in Edinburgh, commented on the new tourism strategy: “We welcome the development of the strategy and also that it has highlighted core priorities and measurable objectives that we must, as an industry, work together to achieve. 


“All the hotels in the city, and indeed around Scotland, will benefit from an improved tourism product and experience in Edinburgh. The better overall experience that our visitors have – which includes the initial impression, the overall welcome, navigation, and technology support for instance,  the more likely they are to visit again and to recommend Edinburgh. That brings massive benefits for hoteliers and it is up to us to support this drive for an improved tourism product.” 


Minister for Tourism, Fergus Ewing, said: "The Scottish Government is committed to supporting the growth of the tourism industry and I was delighted to launch the Edinburgh 2020 strategy which will be central to achieving that growth. 


"The strategy recognises that tourism brings many benefits, not just for Edinburgh but for the whole country.  It is ambitious and has clear objectives which will stand the industry in good stead for the future.” 


To implement the strategy, an Edinburgh Tourism Strategy Implementation Group (SIG) will be formed, made up of key organisations from public and private sectors. Action Groups will be established to progress defined projects and areas of action.



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