Tourism

Edinburgh is a major tourism centre in the UK and gateway to the rest of Scotland. Around 4 million visitors a year inject £1.32 billion into the local economy. Scotland's Inspiring Capital is the UK's favourite domestic holiday alternative to London and has a multiple award-winning reputation as one of the most attractive destinations in the world, with an ideal mix of shopping, culture, music, heritage and leisure facilities.

Today, tourists continue to enjoy Edinburgh's past and present landmarks. It is the world's most famous arts festival city, the world's first City of Literature (awarded by UNESCO in 2004) and home to the iconic Edinburgh Castle, the Scottish Parliament and the Palace of Holyroodhouse – the official Scottish residence of the Queen. According to VisitScotland, eleven of the top twenty visited attractions in Scotland are located in the Edinburgh City Region. The area is also home to one of Scotland’s five UNESCO World Heritage Sites – a completely unique layout, the medieval Old Town and Georgian New Town of Edinburgh are recognised as a site of international importance.

Key tourism stats for 2014

Visitors to Edinburgh in 2014 totalled 4,217,000 (38.5% of which were from overseas), injected around £1.32 billion into the city region's economy and accounted for 14.77 million bed nights. The city region also accounts for 28% of all expenditure by UK and overseas tourists in Scotland.

In 2014, average occupancy levels in Edinburgh (80.5%) were among the highest in Europe and beyond. This included a solid mix of business and leisure tourism and peaked in the months of June (90%), July (91%), August (93%) and September (93%).

The world's festival capital

Edinburgh is the world's festival capital, with 12 international festivals and a host of other major events throughout the year. They include the Edinburgh International Festival, Edinburgh International Science Festival, International Film Festival, International Book Festival, the Edinburgh Military Tattoo, Edinburgh's Christmas and Hogmanay and the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, the largest arts festival in the world. 

In 2015, over 4.5 million people attended the city's festivals. This equates to a £280million impact on the local city economy.

Discover more about Edinburgh's International Festivals.

World-class accommodation and Iconic attractions

Interactive map of Edinburgh and the City Region

Edinburgh has seen many international brands expand into the city including Accor, Crowne Plaza, Marriott, Hilton, Tune Hotels, DeVere and Waldorf Astoria.

Chinese tourists recently voted the luxury apart-hotel the Old Town Chambers, the best place to stay in Scotland, while the Chester Residence in the city's West End has been named the UK's best luxury hotel by TripAdvisor.

Discover more about Edinburgh's iconic attractions and world-class accomodation on our Interactive City Map.

6 of the top 10 visitor attractions in Scotland are based in Edinburgh. In 2015, The National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh was the region's most popular free visitor attraction, with more than 1.56 million visitors, according to Visit Scotland, whilst Edinburgh Castle welcomed the most visitors of any paid-for attraction, with just over 1.56 million visitors going through its gates, whilst 4.1 million visitors went to Edinburgh's top 5 Museums and Galleries.

The National Galleries of Scotland, Edinburgh Zoo (home to the UK's only giant pandas - Yang Guang and Tian Tian), St Giles' Cathedral, the Palace of Holyroodhouse, the Royal Yacht Britannia, the Scottish Parliament, Our Dynamic Earth and the Royal Botanic Garden are also favourites, alongside nearby attractions such as Stirling Castle, the Kelpies, Falkirk Wheel, Rosslyn Chapel and East Lothian's Museum of Flight as well as several popular attractions only an hour away in Glasgow. 

International conferences & events

Edinburgh is the UK's most favoured city outside London for holding international conferences and the sector is estimated to generate around £300 million a year for the city region.

Business tourism continues to be a growing market for the Scottish Capital. Facilities such as the Edinburgh International Conference Centre (EICC), the Assembly Rooms and the Usher Hall have all recently gone through upgrades totaling around £60 million in order to accommodate the growth in this thriving market.

Discover more about Edinburgh's Business Tourism Sector.

Inspiring investment

Continued major investment in Edinburgh's tourism and cultural infrastructure is enhancing the city's international reputation as a tourism capital.

Projects include the £46 million expansion of the National Museums of Scotland, the £18 million refurbishment of the National Portrait Gallery, the National Galleries of Scotland were also recently renovated and extended in a flagship £30 million project.

City collaboration

The Edinburgh Tourism Industry is collaborating through the Edinburgh Tourism Action Group (ETAG). ETAG is the umbrella organisation for the tourism sector in Edinburgh with the aim to create a strong tourism community that works together to deliver growth for Edinburgh-based businesses, a great experience for the visitor and economic benefits for the city and Scotland as a whole. ETAG continues to work towards the goals of the Edinburgh 2020 Tourism Strategy which aims to:

  • 1. Increase the number of visits to the city by a third.
  • 2. Increase the average spending of visitors to the city by 10% (at 2010 prices)
  • 3. To reduce seasonality across the sector.

Discover more the Edinburgh Tourism Action Group.

Hotel Development Opportunities

Edinburgh plays a vital role in the UK tourism economy and is the UK’s most popular tourist destination after London. The city achieves some of the highest hotel occupancy levels in Europe and some of the highest average daily room rates in the UK.

The capital city has a positive attitude towards hotel development. The City of Edinburgh Council’s development policies aim to promote sustainable economic development, taking full account of the need to protect and enhance environmental quality and to protect existing sites and premises that have value for Edinburgh’s economic functioning. 

Discover more about hotel development opportunities in our Edinburgh Hotel Prospectus. 

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City of Edinburgh Council

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