Operators can cash in on growing visitor spend, writes Robin Worsnop, chair of Edinburgh Tourism Action Group
THE last 20 years have seen a remarkable transformation in the scale and nature of Edinburgh’s tourism industry – and its impact on the economic, social and cultural life of the city.
This is equally true of the city’s food and drink offering, which has changed beyond recognition.
Not only does Edinburgh now have more Michelin stars than any city in the UK outside London, it has a huge variety of excellent quality bars and restaurants to suit all budgets that focus on good, welcoming service and showcase our fantastic local and Scottish produce.
Developing our food and drink offer as a reason for people to visit Edinburgh is key to growing tourism in the years ahead.
The economic uncertainty has brought fluctuations in business and leisure tourism.
However, a strong product and visitor mix has enabled the sector to adapt, sustain overall visitor impact and achieve growth in some areas.
It is worth remembering that visitor spend in the city is growing, and increased from £250 million in 1990 to more than £1 billion in 2010.
This presents a huge opportunity for on-trade businesses – one that not everyone has capitalised on in the past.
But help is at hand at the Edinburgh Tourism Action Group (ETAG), which brings together a diverse range of tourism businesses.
ETAG has sometimes wrongly been perceived as an organisation for accommodation providers, festivals and tourist attractions – it’s not. It offers support for all businesses with a direct or indirect influence on the visitor experience.
Like retailers or transport providers, Edinburgh’s bars and restaurants may not have been fully aware that ETAG offers a valuable, free resource for them to engage with and utilise.
With the aim of supporting the tourism sector’s growth through business development, ETAG’s primary objective is to build a stronger tourism community.
By providing a network for communication and bringing businesses together to share best practice, collaborate and innovate, we can simultaneously help individual businesses improve their performance while enhancing the visitor experience and strengthening Edinburgh’s position as a world class visitor destination.
Edinburgh 2020: The Edinburgh Tourism Strategy launched this week, outlining the key objectives and recommendations to ensure the continued success and growth of the city’s tourism sector over the coming years.
One of the priority areas identified is to ensure the ‘highest quality of visitor experience in order to maximise satisfaction, extend visitor stays and expenditure’.
Developing our food and drink offer as a major reason for visitors to choose Edinburgh will be crucial in achieving this goal.
Directly linked to this is the importance of attracting the right talent to ensure businesses have access to appropriately skilled staff.
The industry overall must improve the appeal and perception of hospitality as a strong, long-term career choice which offers continuous professional development.
It goes without saying that all visitors to the city need to be fed, watered and entertained.
A quick analysis of TripAdvisor and other social media platforms quickly highlights that food is a major subject of discussion about destinations generally, Edinburgh included.
The industry must improve the perception of hospitality as a strong, long-term career choice.
Going that extra mile to create a memorable, authentic and welcoming experience really does make a difference.
Repeat visits to the city account for approximately 50% of Edinburgh’s leisure visits every year – if someone enjoys their time in a particular bar or restaurant, the likelihood is that they will visit it again.
• It’s free to register with ETAG and become part of the Edinburgh tourism business community.
To download a copy of Edinburgh 2020: The Edinburgh Tourism Strategy and learn more about what it could mean to your business, visit www.etag.org.uk