THE head of business tourism at Marketing Edinburgh has revealed stakeholders across the sector are collaborating on an unprecedented basis to ensure the drive to attract events to the city is not derailed by the backdrop of political uncertainty.

The bureau recently launched a digital campaign, Make it Edinburgh, to highlight the city’s strongest sectors as part of its remit to attract more conferences and conventions to the Scottish capital. It is the first time public and private sectors from across the tourism sector have come together to jointly market the city.

Amanda Ferguson said the campaign is partly aimed at helping the city shrug off the uncertainty brought by Brexit and the possibility of a second independence referendum. Her message comes as the agency was expecting the political backdrop to lead a fall in the value of conference business booked in 2017.

Loading article content

Ms Ferguson, who joined the bureau from VisitScotland in August, said: “Our sector is very sensitive to uncertainty, in whatever format that takes, and the events we are bidding for have very long lead-in times. Any sense of uncertainty as to what the political or geopolitical or economic situation is going to be in two, three, five years’ time… makes the decision makers very nervous.

“This is a very highly competitive global market with increasing number of competition jumping on the bandwagon of business events with their local and national governments pumping money into it.

“It is really competitive so to have an issue, a big question hanging over the destination… is going to have some type of impact. And there’s plenty of other destinations for decision makers to be factoring in.”

Ms Ferguson emphasised that all UK cities, not just Edinburgh, are facing the same challenge. But she said the decision to leave the European Union has brought some benefit, notably the fall in the pound since the vote took place in June 2016. She said the city saw a “flurry” of bookings when the impact on the pound became apparent.

The wider political uncertainty followed a successful 2016 for business tourism in Edinburgh.

Ms Ferguson, who spent 10 years at VisitScotland prior to joining Marketing Edinburgh, and before that had a five-year stint working for Edinburgh International Conference Centre, said 2016 had seen the city attract £75 million worth of conference business.

Those events will be staged in Edinburgh in subsequent years, with that business helping the city jump eight places in the ICCA Global City Index to 27th place – its highest ranking in 10 years. The index ranks international destinations in terms of the number of conferences they attract.

Ms Ferguson said: “It’s certainly very big business for the city, and it’s really great to get that global recognition [to] go up the rankings. Those are highly competitive, as you can imagine.”

Among the events Marketing Edinburgh has recently attracted as Eurocities, confirmed earlier this year, which followed a bid in collaboration with City of Edinburgh Council. The event, which involves delegates from European cities coming together to discuss key economic themes, will come to Edinburgh in November.

Ms Ferguson said securing the event was a “big win” for the agency in terms of raising its profile among its European counterparts.

Belfast-born Ms Ferguson, who has been based in Edinburgh since coming to the city to study at Heriot-Watt and Napier universities, said this year’s iteration recently took place in the Slovenian capital of Ljubljana, where the successful Edinburgh bidders were represented.