The City of Edinburgh is renowned as a visitor hotspot. However, following the success of Glasgow’s Marketing Bureau, the capital is preparing to launch its very own version.
For a city that relies so heavily on tourism, it could be argued that Edinburgh has perhaps missed a trick as the perception of Glasgow as a tourist destination has grown internationally.
And, despite its detractors when the Scotland with Style campaign first launched, Glasgow is now reaping the rewards. Hotel occupancy rates in the city are the highest since records began. It is attracting an ever increasing chunk of the business tourism market and in a poll last year it was named top city in the UK by the readers of prestigious travelling lifestyle magazine Condé Nast Traveller.
Following such success by the Glasgow City Marketing bureau, it is not surprising to learn that Edinburgh is planning to follow in its neighbours steps. The surprise is probably more that it hasn’t done so before now.
But perhaps it felt it just hadn’t need to. As Scotland’s capital city, the home of internationally renowned Edinburgh Festivals and the famous Edinburgh Castle, the city attracts over two million tourists every year. In 2006 alone these visitors spent £585m in the city.
However, if the city achieved all this without a dedicated marketing body, it begs the question: what could it have done with one?
“Marketing a city is absolutely vital in the modern global economy,” says conveyor of economic development for Edinburgh City Council, councillor Tom Buchanan, the man driving the project to set up such a bureau.
He then launches into language that would have had the genteel folk in Morningside choking on their afternoon tea not that long ago. “We are up against other world cities and we have got to constantly reinforce Edinburgh as the leading tourism brand that it is. Edinburgh is the attack brand for Scotland as a whole. It is absolutely vital that we constantly revisit and refocus on what Edinburgh is and what it has to offer.”
The marketing bureau, in its embryonic form, is currently being referred to as ‘Destination Edinburgh’, placing the city as a ‘must see’ tourist destination for travellers worldwide.
Despite the city’s obvious strength in the tourism market, Buchanan insists that the city must continue to reinforce its offering at home as well as globally.
“Around 45 percent of people visiting Scotland come through Edinburgh so we’ve got to make sure that Edinburgh is marketed properly through out the world.
“As such it’s very important that we create a standalone marketing destinations bureau for Edinburgh, but there is a lot of work still to go in creating this.”
No timescale has yet been set for the bureau’s launch, although the process has now been ongoing under-wraps for nearly a year, with discussions taking place across each business sector that will be involved and that will, in turn, look to benefit from the creation of such a function.
However, the bureau’s creation took a big step forward last week when it was announced that Kenneth Wardrop had been appointed as the officer to head up the creation of Destination Edinburgh, moving from the post of interim head of economic development to become project director for the marketing bureau.
As to why a department has not already been put in place prior to Buchanan’s appointment, he is unable to say – although he highlights the good work already done promoting the city as a destination hot spot.
Others, though, have been rather uninspired by Edinburgh’s previous marketing efforts, including the Inspiring Capital branding launched by Interbrand in 2005. Much of the criticism rounded on the Inspiring Capital work was from the city’s marketing community, which was largely overlooked in the brand’s creation.
Buchanan is keen to avoid such criticism this time around. He admits that he has already consulted some of the city’s marketing community, but is reluctant to say exactly who, simply stating that anyone with experience or knowledge of the field is welcome to approach him with advice at this stage.
“We’ve got to go to people from the financial sector and developers who are developing areas of the city. We need their opinion too. More importantly, we all need to buy into this. No one can stand on the sidelines who has Edinburgh’s interests at heart.”
Buchanan does not hide his admiration for the success that Glasgow has achieved in marketing itself and changing its reputation from a hard, industrial city into one that is friendly, welcoming and stylish.
But he claims that the neighbouring city on Scotland’s central belt is seen more as a partner than as a competitor: “There are elements of Glasgow’s success that we want to emulate. There is an ongoing collaboration… But we’ve got to work harder together, that way it is a much bigger entity and we can promote Scotland as a whole much better.
“I can see why Glasgow launched its own marketing bureau. But Edinburgh is a different city, we need to talk to and attract a different audience.”
As for Buchanan, who has spent the last year building a case for the bureau, he is unable to say yet what the budget is for this project. He has also already stated that there has not been a timescale predicted for the launch of the bureau. Still, he seems confident that it will happen and, with the help of the city’s indigenous marketing community, it will lead Edinburgh into an even stronger position in the global tourist playing field.