Edinburgh hosts the largest number of international meetings in the UK, outside London, according to the International Congress and Convention Association.
So, what is the great attraction? It’s more of a where do you start. The city is vibrant, compact and an attractive World Heritage site. There’s a wide choice of world-class venues and hotels, good restaurants and the airport’s just eight-miles from the centre of town.
Over 180 venues, attractions, transport providers and conference organisers are represented by membership organisation, Convention Edinburgh, which fights hard to bring business to the city.
Lesley Williams, head of business tourism at Convention Edinburgh believes the city punches above its weight in the competitive international conference market.
“The results speak for themselves – we are hosting more delegates and winning more conference bids than ever before. Convention Edinburgh had a strong performance in 2014, securing over 174 new bid wins. This is expected to bring more than 63,000 delegates to Edinburgh and generate an estimated £95m to the local economy.
“We are increasingly seeing a trend for larger, longer conferences taking place in the city.
“2014 was a terrific year for showcasing Scotland and its capital city to the UK and rest of the world.
“The success of the Ryder Cup, Commonwealth Games – and not to forget the Scottish Independence Referendum -all put Scotland on an international stage and demonstrated our expertise in delivering successful events.
“2015 is all about capitalising on the success of last year and making sure Edinburgh is on every conference booker’s radar.”
The growth and investment is certainly pulling in the planners and the punters. I took a look at just some of the plans that are due to start this year.
From hotels, to serviced apartments, new exhibition space and joint projects that include hotel, retail space and offices.
A six-year project is underway that will see £850m spent on developing St James Quarter in the city centre. It will include an apart-hotel, shops, a theatre, flats and a large upmarket hotel.
The Haymarket is also to see the start of a £200m development this summer, including an apart-hotel, office, leisure and retail space.
Mercure is opening a four-star, 120-room, hotel in May, close to Edinburgh International Conference Centre and Princes Street.
Also in May, the Old Town Chambers will be expanded, adding 14 serviced apartments and making it the largest collection of five-star studios and one-bedroomed properties the city has to offer.
The city’s West End Church, St John the Evangelist, is to undergo a £2.5m extension and refurbishment to add a new glass and stone extension to the original hall, creating a flexible space for exhibitions and performances, seating up to 100.
The Royal Highland Centre is also starting the first phase of a £30m redevelopment, which includes a new 290m-boulevard entrance, a hotel, agricultural business hub and conference and leisure facilities.
A new film showcasing Edinburgh’s unique conference offering can be downloaded from the new website conventionedinburgh.com which launched last week, along with a new toolkit for meeting planners.
Funky, futuristic and fun to stay at, the Urban Resort Hotel Edinburgh opened its doors in style with a lavish party at the end of January.
The hotel is the second Urban property to launch in Scotland recently – Aberdeen opened in December, and Glasgow is due to open this summer.
Their striking Black Box design includes business and leisure facilities, which can be used by business delegates, leisure guests and the local community.
The 120-room Edinburgh property has all the 21st century expectations – from free Wi-Fi to flat screen televisions.
Those will a little more budget can enjoy the additional comforts of the 21 Upper Deck rooms. They’re larger, have beds you won’t want to get out of, and treats such as Bose speakers, plus Sky Movies and Sports packages.
The Events Hub accommodates up to 200 in a flexible space that can be used for meetings, banquets or product launches. There’s also free parking, free Wi-Fi and a dedicated events organiser on hand.
Mixing business with leisure could include the Velocity Health and Fitness Club, where guests can swim, spin, cycle and use the latest gym equipment? or sooth away the day’s work in the Viva Urban Spa.
Private dining can also be catered for, or delegates can dine in the stylish Urban Bar and Grill.
This was first published in the March issue of CN. Any comments? Email Paul Colston