Edinburgh boosted by soaring business tourism demand

Published: 09 August 2017

This article was published on the City A.M. website on 9 August 2017 as part of Invest Edinburgh Talk.

Scotland’s capital has long been recognised as one of the most attractive visitor destinations in the world, attracting nearly 4m visitors every year.

However, the city’s renowned culture of innovation coupled with recognised excellence in life sciences, informatics and data science, technology, financial services, renewable energy and law are also proving an irresistible combination for Meetings, Incentive, Conference and Events (MICE) organisers.

Edinburgh offers not only offers conference organisers that elusive ‘wow’ factor when choosing a venue, it also delivers unique opportunities to co-create a legacy through its active Ambassador network.

As the number one International Congress and Convention Association (ICCA) conference destination in the UK outside of London, Edinburgh recently leaped up in the ICCA’s global rankings to 20th place among European conference destinations. In 2016 alone, Convention Edinburgh confirmed 134 future major events, some booked as far ahead as 2025, which will bring close to 48,000 delegates to the city.

Business tourism now generates more than £300m in annual economic value for the city.

Elaine Miller, Ambassador and Association Bid Manager, Convention Edinburgh


“Edinburgh has a bit of everything,” explained Elaine Miller, Ambassador and Association Bid Manager who oversees Convention Edinburgh’s 500-strong Ambassador Programme, set up over 20 years ago to promote the city as a business tourism destination. “The city is safe, well connected internationally, compact and walkable, and provides a truly iconic backdrop for organisers seeking to wow their delegates.

“Requirements have also changed over the years, with organisers increasingly seeking ways to work with local convention partners to create a legacy and ensure events are sustainable. Whether through our Ambassador Programme or wider city partners such as Festivals Edinburgh, the city provides unrivalled scope and choice to do just that.”

Recent successes have seen the Edinburgh International Conference Centre (EICC) honoured with an Autism Friendly Award, in recognition of the accessibility measures it put in place prior to hosting the Autism Europe Conference in 2016. 

"The Edinburgh Ambassador Programme has helped to attract more than 528,000 delegates to 1,348 events, generating an estimated £900m for the city economy," says Elaine.

 “We are now seeking to evolve our Ambassador role further,” added Elaine, “providing a greater sector-specific focus to the Programme’s activities that really seeks to capitalise on Edinburgh’s world-leading strengths in data science, medicine, financial services and technology. Our Ambassadors can not only help secure future conferences and international association meetings, but also act as champions for the city. The networks and discussions that emerge from hosting major international conferences open up all sorts of doors to future inward investment opportunities.”

Supply meets growing demand

Business Tourism demand is certainly fuelling investment appetite across Edinburgh’s hotel sector. The city remains the most sought-after market in the UK outside of London. More than 2,000 new hotel rooms are due to be added to the city’s hotel stock in the next 24 months. As key investments in Edinburgh’s infrastructure, including new capital funding announced as part of the Edinburgh and South East Scotland City Regional Deal, continue to improve transport links and add new world-class venues, the city is well placed to grow its business tourism offer further.

A more holistic and joined-up approach to the sector is already delivering success. Convention Edinburgh announced a solid start to 2017 with five new international bid wins equating to 3,400 delegates, which will deliver more than £7m to the local economy.

In June, the EICC announced a formal partnership with Edinburgh Napier University to launch the UK’s first MSc in Business Event Management, with the first cohort of students commencing their studies in September, with students able to undertake work placements at the EICC to hone their skills as part of an experienced conferences team.

The business events industry is a fast-growing segment of Scotland’s economy and it’s more important than ever, in 2017, that we keep ahead of global competition.

Marshall Dallas, Chief Executive, EICC


“Being a business which creates a platform for innovation and progression, we are thrilled to be working in collaboration with Napier on this initiative to produce amazing talent.”

This joined-up approach to the city’s business tourism strategy continues to be refined to ensure Edinburgh retains its unique ability to offer a highly professional and memorable event in a stunning setting and evolves to meet organiser’s future requirements. This is a city with much to celebrate, but far from resting on its laurels, a bold vision underpins Edinburgh’s ambition to further enhance its outstanding conference facilities, excellent international travel links, intellectual climate and unrivalled cultural fabric – all with the aim of making Scotland’s capital one of Europe’s premier conference destinations.


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