TOURISM has been an economic powerhouse for Edinburgh over the last ten years and growth could hit new highs with thousands of affluent Chinese travellers set to flock to the city.

Describing tourism as the heartbeat of the economy in Edinburgh, VisitScotland regional director Paula Ward notes that around 10 per cent of jobs and businesses in the city are connected with tourism.

This follows a decade of astounding growth in visitor numbers, which has provided a boost worth more than £500m a year to the regional economy.

The latest figures show international visitor numbers surged 42% to 1.7m between 2008 and 2016, with their total spend more than doubling to £822m from £377m.

Domestic visitor numbers increased around nine per cent between 2008 and 2016, from 2,045,000 to 2,223,000.

Their spending rose 23% to £641m, from £521m.

The benefits have rippled out to help firms working in sectors such as retail and transport as well as hotels and restaurants.

The outlook is good.

Ms Ward says Edinburgh has a very strong core visitor product, driven by its history, heritage and architecture and position as the world’s leading festival city.

She notes: “290,000 domestic visitor trips are made to Edinburgh in August compared with 186,000 in July with overnight domestic visitors spending in the region of £73 million. Festivals are big business.”

A variety of factors have helped boost trade including the success of efforts to attract people to make films such as Outlander in the city and business events.

“Growth of Edinburgh Airport has been key,” adds Ms Ward.

Passenger numbers have risen from 8.6m in 2010 to 13.4m in 2017. There are now over 200 routes to 140 different destinations.

The prospect of the launch of direct flights from Beijing to Edinburgh in June is generating huge excitement.

Hainan Airlines will run flights four times weekly, using Airbus 330-300s which can carry around 280 passengers plus.

VisitScotland reckons the flights will mark an exciting gear change for Scottish engagement with the Chinese market, following a steady rise in visitors from the country in recent years.