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Bravehearts fight Edinburgh council cuts

Bravehearts fight Edinburgh council cuts

UKInbound and ECM lend support to local eventprofs’ fight against Edinburgh’s proposed 89% budget cut to city DMO

UK tourism trade association UKInbound joined Marketing Edinburgh’s Chief Executive in fighting against an Edinburgh City Council proposal for a 89% cut to its marketing budget over two years.

UKinbound warned that Scotland’s capital could be left as the only major city in the developed world without a destination marketing organisation [DMO]. The proposed cuts would apply to Edinburgh’s Marketing Team, Convention Bureau and Film Office.

Joss Croft, Chief Executive of UKinbound, which was, ironically, holding its two-day conference in Scotland at the time the news broke, said: “Edinburgh is the second most visited city in the UK by overseas visitors and the proposed cut puts that at risk. At a time when the UK needs to be outward facing and establishing new trade partnerships – leaving the city without a DMO would undoubtedly hurt the city’s economy.”

John Donnelly, Chief Executive of Marketing Edinburgh, said the council’s initial proposal would have cut £567,000 (US$741,655) (64%) from the 2019/2020 budget and a further £223,000 in 2020/2021 from Marketing Edinburgh’s current grant of £890K. It would, he said, “have serious consequences for the city’s economy”.

“Without a body that unites public and private sectors in the city’s promotion and economic development, we will severely compromise the city’s ability to attract talent, conferences, business and visitors – while our ability to talk to those who live and work in the city, as consumers, will cease,” he said, adding: “These are all critical pipelines to a successful future Edinburgh and we sever them at our peril. Most immediately, these cuts would damage the £72m created by business tourism and the £16m delivered by the film economy.

“It would remove the ability for Marketing Edinburgh to rally the private sector, ending the significant financial contribution they currently make to city campaigns.

“It would also halt momentum and growth across all of our digital platforms; our campaigns, including Edinburgh.org.”

Marketing Edinburgh presented a counter proposal to the council, suggesting they only cut £300k in 2019/20. This was accepted on 21 Febuary – subject to development of a business plan which outlines a detailed strategy for transition to zero funding.

Leaders from one of Europe’s most prestigious gatherings of DMOs lined up behind their Edinburgh colleagues to voice their disbelief at the ‘short-sighted’ consequences for Edinburgh should the proposed council budget cuts go ahead.

Two hundred international experts and event owners from 80 European cities attended the European Cities Marketing (ECM) Spring Meeting 2019 in Edinburgh in February, while the host city faced the infamy of potentially becoming the only city in the developed world without a DMO.

Dieter Hardt-Stremayr, President of ECM and Managing Director of Graz Tourist Office said: “I am shocked that leaders of any city would dismiss and undervalue the role of a DMO in contributing to its future success. Such a drastic cut is unheard of in our circles.

“At a time of Brexit uncertainty, I find it incredibly short-sighted. Through its work with ECM, Marketing Edinburgh plays an integral part in strengthening ties with other European cities.  This is a time when Edinburgh should be investing in its destination marketing, not abolishing it.”

Donnelly added: “While we are honoured to welcome ECM and its Spring Meeting to Edinburgh, the timing could not be worse. Destination marketing leaders from across the continent have travelled to hear insights and inspiration from our industry experts. It is frankly embarrassing to be in this position.” Donnelly remained hopeful that councillors would work to find an alternative funding model.

Managing Editor, Conference News & Conference & Meetings World. Write Paul an E-mail