THE world's biggest arts festival continues to get bigger.

Edinburgh's Festival Fringe, which came to a close yesterday, has reported another record tickets haul, with more than 2.8m, free and paid-for, being issued.

The increase, signalling ongoing trend of expansion and setting the festival on course for 3m tickets in 2019, represents a rise of 5% on last years figure at the same time, and is reflected in successful ticket figures of the major venues throughout the city.

The Edinburgh International Book Festival also reported a rise in "footfall" in its Charlotte Square site, and an 8% rise in book sales.

However, the Edinburgh International Festival reported ticket sales of £3.8m, down from the £4.3m reported this time last year, due, it said, to a smaller programme, notably in the opera section.

It said it had also issued 46,095 tickets to the value of £569,750 issued "free of charge or at discounted rates to young people, seniors, customers with disabilities and groups identified as having a lower income."

The EIF said that overall attendance reached an average of 85% total capacity across the EIF programme and in a statement added: "overall attendance was very strong and met expectations."

Fergus Linehan, the EIF director, said the ticket income figure had hit the festival's targets and he was very pleased with the result.

The Light on the Shore concerts at Leith Theatre drew 16,000 people to the resurrected Leith venue.

Mr Linehan said it would be "great to go back", but depended on what the Leith Theatre Trust wanted to do with the venue, among other factors.

The four major venues at the Fringe: Underbelly, Gildred Balloon, Pleasance and Assembly, sold 1,658,437 tickets, an increase of 9%.

Shona McCarthy, the chief executive of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe Society, said: "2018 has been another fantastic year for the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.

"Artists from around the world have flocked to Scotland’s capital, delighting audiences with work that is exciting, shocking, entertaining, world class and often, hilarious.

"Whatever the medium, so many Fringe artists help us to question the world around us and illuminate the most challenging areas of being human in new ways."

Yesterday afternoon, with hundreds of performances still to take place, the Fringe estimated that 2,838,839 tickets had been issued.

Last year, the figure at the same time was 2,696,884, and marks a rise in 1m in seven years.

The ongoing expansion in size and success of the Fringe continues to prompt debate over how the city can cope with the festival.

The city council's leader, Adam McVey, wants to levy a visitor tax, or transient visitor levy (TVL) which could raise millions for the capital.

There has also been an ongoing debate about the pay and conditions of Fringe workers, led by the Fair Fringe campaign and the Unite union.

Major venues at the Fringe have reported successful 2018 seasons.

Summerhall, in its eighth year of being a Fringe venue, sold more tickets than in 2017, which itself was a record year.

Underbelly reported its strongest year yet for tickets sold, with 422,120 tickets sold across its 22 venues and four sites, compared to last year's 291,000: however, it had a larger capacity, with the return of the 900-seater McEwan Hall as a venue.

The Pleasance, another key Fringe producer, said ticket sales had increased by 10%.

The Edinburgh International Book Festival has reported a record "footfall" of 260,000 people on its site in Charlotte Square, up from 250,0000, and book sales up 8%.

Nick Barley, director of the Edinburgh International Book Festival, said: "It’s wonderful to know that the Festival has been so popular and has broken records again in all the ways these things are usually measured.

"But I wish there was an index of enlightenment, or an exuberance-ometer to show how the Book Festival also contributes to Scotland’s knowledge, happiness and well-being."

Ms McCarthy said that the changes to the public performances on the Royal Mile, a change to this year's Fringe, had been a success.

She added: "We are committed to breaking down barriers to attending the Fringe and through the Fringe Blueprint we will continue to work to address issues that affect participants and audiences at the festival, to ensure that no matter who you are or where you come from, you feel you can have a voice and be welcomed here in August.”

Fergus Linehan, director of the Edinburgh International Festival, said: "As the 2018 International Festival draws to a close, we thank the many artists, staff members and audiences whose enthusiasm and tireless generosity make the Festival possible.

"We were grateful for the many young people who joined us from across the world to perform and participate in their thousands."