The city of Edinburgh is growing, but calls for a dedicated international exhibition centre are echoing in the corridors of power.
The City of Edinburgh Council has increased calls for a dedicated international exhibition centre, as recent figures from the Edinburgh Convention Bureau show international interest in the city is on the up.
The number of exhibitions and conferences secured in the city over the 12 months to March increased by 57 year-on-year, contributing to a total of 52,000 delegates and a boost to the city economy of £700,000 on the figure for the previous financial year.
According to Edinburgh Council’s convenor of the economic development committee, Cllr Tom Buchanan, the capital city is weathering the economic downturn better than expected.
“The fact that business tourism has continued to prosper in these difficult times is testament to the endeavours of everyone in the business, academic and investment communities,” says Buchanan, who was instrumental in setting up the Destination Edinburgh Marketing Alliance (DEMA) to harness the efforts of all parties able to bring business and talent to the city.
The councillor now believes time is right for a new international exhibition centre to accompany the Edinburgh International Conference Centre (EICC). “As a sign of our ambitions, the expansion of the EICC and the improvement in its facilities will allow it to accommodate all but the largest events held in Europe.”
The proposed development consists of two elements, an expansion of the existing EICC conference facilities and an independent office development, which will recoup funds for the EICC expansion. Both projects are likely to generate construction costs in excess of £80m, a significant investment for the Edinburgh economy.
However, Buchanan argues that the city needs to think on a larger scale than simply expanding the EICC. “We are discussing proposals for a new 6,000 plus seat venue in the west of the city,” he says.
Edinburgh has a strong international identity thanks to its striking castle, military heritage and the association with whiskey and tartan, the famed Scottish exports. Other offerings, such as evening entertainment and hotels have also witnessed something of a resurgence in the past 12 months.
The Scottish Whiskey Experience, located beside Edinburgh Castle, was recently revamped. It now offers what is arguably the world’s finest collection of whiskies, as well as an interactive ride through the creation process. The venue provides fine surroundings for evening functions and added value for those with an interest in what goes into the perfect dram.
Edinburgh has also seen the arrival of new hotels, including the Fraser Suites on St Giles Street, a boutique hotel that stands out among the city’s better-known hotels like The George on vibrant George Street.
Further development in the city includes the esplanade at Edinburgh Castle, where the organiser of the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo is working to prepare new stands for the annual event.
“It all adds to the city’s draw for exhibitions and conferences,” said a spokesman for the venue.
“This year we have noticed an increase in business from financial institutions. This has mainly come from within the UK and particularly Edinburgh-based corporations which are arranging staff conferences, AGMs and so on,” the spokesman adds.
Despite recent successes, the larger international events remain beyond Edinburgh’s reach, instead being snapped up by the venues in Glasgow and Aberdeen. If the city wants to become a fixture on the global calendar, and capitalise on the demand for hosting large-scale events in the city, then it needs its international venue.