EDINBURGH'S tourism industry is exceeding key targets set by an industry body two years ago for its performance in the period to 2020, a report has revealed.

The first Strategy Performance Monitoring Report, unveiled by councillor Frank Ross at the Edinburgh Tourism Action Group (ETAG) conference, has highlighted an increase in the number of trips to the city, visitor expenditure and average spend per trip compared with 2010.

The report, compiled for ETAG by SQW Economic Consultants, shows a growing number of tourists are choosing to visit the city in the traditionally off-peak months of October to March - a trend attributed to improved transport "connectivity" as well as the growth of events such as Edinburgh's Hogmanay and Winter Festival. Rising income across the industry was also found to have supported an additional 2600 jobs on average between 2010 and 2012.

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ETAG chairman Robin Worsnop hailed the report's findings as a "fantastic" achievement. He said: "There was a sense that 2012 had been a challenging one, particularly in July when the Olympics were on. But the overall figures for the year are very encouraging and we are expecting 2013 to improve on them.

"Edinburgh is becoming a destination as a European capital city. It's the quality of the experiences we offer, and the word of mouth around the experiences is driving people to visit."

The conference heard the industry had continued to make progress in 2013. Although official statistics for the year have yet to be released, delegates at the Edinburgh International Conference Centre (EICC) were told the sector had performed strongly during the summer months.

In August, when the Edinburgh Fringe and Festival take place, hotel occupancy was recorded at 92.8% in August, compared with 89.8% in the same month in 2012.

There was a 7.7% increase in revenue per available room (revpar) to £111.83 from £100.50 in August 2012, while in the same month average daily rates were 11.2% higher at £120.55.

It was reported that Edinburgh Castle had seen a 26% rise in visitors over the summer. Attendances were up at the city's summer festivals by 5% on average, and Edinburgh Airport had experienced its busiest ever year.

And the strong performance of the city's tourism sector was not confined to the summer. Hotel occupancy in November was measured at 80.6% - the highest on record and up to £66.84 from £61.82 on November 2012. Edinburgh also saw a 32% increase in footfall in December on last year.

Mr Worsnop said preparations were being made to maintain growth with investment in hotel stock, with full-service and self-catering hotels recently being refurbished and constructed.

l EICC is expected to welcome nearly 200 Virgin Atlantic staff today when the airline's sales and marketing conference comes to Scotland for the first time. Staff from India, Hong Kong, Australia, South Africa, Dubai and Japan are due to attend.