Agency facing tough challenge

Cash-strapped Marketing Edinburgh warns of closure

Gordon Robertson

Gordon Robertson: ‘months of hard work ahead of us’ (pic: Terry Murden)


Severe cuts to the body promoting Edinburgh to the world may force its closure within the next year, according to its chairman.

Marketing Edinburgh has been stripped of most of its public funding and saw its chief executive leave the organisation after he had publicly denounced the cutbacks.

In a new document the board’s chairman Gordon Robertson says it is facing “months of hard work” and may “cease to exist”.

Councillors cut £300,000 from this year’s £890,000 budget and expect it to become self-supporting by next year.

John Donnelly stood down as chief executive, after warning of the impact of the cuts on the city’s ability to compete for business. In February, just a week before the cuts were confirmed, he accused the council of “embarrassing” the agency as it hosted the European Cities Marketing (ECM) conference, a three-day event attracting 200 delegates from 80 cities across the continent. He is now said to be considering a number of options which may see him leave Scotland.

In Marketing Edinburgh’s annual review, published this week, Mr Robertson said: “The board and the management team have been alive to the changes coming and last year invested in exploring different models for the city to best reflect its requirement.

“Events caught up with us at the beginning of 2019 and we find ourselves having to transform or cease to exist, following a 34% cut in council funding and an additional cut that will reduce it to zero.

“We passionately believe that there is a role for an organisation that manages tourism in Edinburgh and manages the city’s brand and reputation in this area.

“We have clear direction that such an organisation cannot expect funding from the council. Our task is to explore that and we have months of hard work ahead of us to do it”.

City council pace director Paul Lawrence says in a report to councillors that progress is being made to a self-sustaining model. He says: “Marketing Edinburgh have begun a transformation programme which will develop options to provide Edinburgh with a financially sustainable destination marketing and management organisation.

“External support has been procured to help co-ordinate and facilitate the development of the required business plan and detailed strategy for transition to a self-financing model. This process recognises the priority of developing a clear direction of travel by the autumn and ensure a smooth implementation in good time ahead of April 2020.”

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