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Two cities can work together to enhance the benefit of tourism

THIS month will see an influx of visitors to Scotland's capital as it truly embodies the festival city banner with the likes of the Fringe, the Edinburgh International Festival and the Book Festival.

The Edinburgh festivals in August alone generate in excess of £100m for the Edinburgh economy.

This year is particularly interesting. The Commonwealth Games were well underway in Glasgow (with the diving being hosted in Edinburgh's Commonwealth Pool) as the August festivals in Edinburgh kicked off.

A mutually beneficial relationship between Scotland's two biggest cities was in evidence as these international events took place simultaneously at both ends of the M8. Many visitors to events in one took the opportunity to make the short journey along the central belt to the other, taking advantage of the great rail and bus transport links.

This example underlines two key points. Firstly, that Edinburgh and Glasgow can work together to enhance the overall benefit from visitors coming to the country. Trading with Glasgow is important to our members. Secondly, the impact of a quality support infrastructure, including transport, to make it easy for tourists to extend their horizons, is not to be underestimated.

August in Edinburgh always has a distinct festival atmosphere, though it is worth underlining that the city, as with the rest of Scotland, is a year-round destination for leisure and business. While this month will be a boom month for retailers, food & beverage producers, accommodation providers, restaurants, bars and others, our challenge is to make Edinburgh attractive right through the year. The capital's festivals alone are said to attract four million visitors a year and the city has been voted the Favourite UK City by the Guardian Travel Awards for 13 consecutive years.

This makes transport links to Glasgow even more relevant: our members see the connectivity between the cities not as a one-off effort, but a year-round focus that genuinely helps both cities to share their visitors and attract new investment.

Tourism is undoubtedly a key pillar in Edinburgh's economy, supporting 30,000 jobs worth £1.6bn to the economy. International events like the festivals and the Games are clearly important for attracting leisure customers but it is also worth noting the importance of business tourism.

For the last seven years, Edinburgh has retained its position as the most popular UK city after London for hosting international association meetings. The economic value of business tourism to Edinburgh city region is estimated to be in excess of £300m a year.

The ongoing tourism challenge is to create a city that both delivers a great quality of life for the people who live or work here but also provides great experiences and attractions for visitors and residents alike.

Edinburgh is used to attracting international attention and does it well. Success breeds success as we see tourists interested in key events return and encourage others to visit too. It goes without saying that attracting visitors to international events is good news for Scotland's economy overall.

David Birrell is chief executive of Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce

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