Marshall Dallas is reflecting on another successful event, held the previous evening at the Edinburgh International Conference Centre (EICC); dinner with a menu by Michelin-starred chef Tom Kitchin (scallops, loin of venison and yoghurt pannacotta). “Amazing,” said Dallas, the EICC’s chief executive. It was actually a bit of a pat on the back for some of those who help to make the city such an attracting events destination to the outside world; around 150 members of Convention Edinburgh’s Ambassador Programme, now in its 20th year.
The EICC is set to attract a record number of events and delegates in 2016, creating an economic impact of around £51.5m for the city compared with £45.8m last year. It will have staged more than 180 events, compared with 134 in 2015, welcoming more than 90,000 delegates, compared with 71,000 last year. It has been buoyed by an increase in the number of international association conferences during the year, a greater diversity of events and the venue’s busiest ever Festival period.
“We’re on course for another really strong year and I couldn’t be happier with the focus of the team and its ability to keep delivering amazing results,” said Dallas. “Underscoring the numbers is the positive feedback we receive from UK and international clients indicating that we are rapidly moving up the order when it comes to the most highly-rated conference venues across the world.”
The EICC’s sales team has been gearing up to capitalise on a presence at Imex America in October, as part of Visit Scotland’s stand. It will be the EICC’s fourth time at the show in Las Vegas, attendance at which can generate sales leads worth millions for the city. And events from the US have formed a significant part – around £9m – of the economic impact that the EICC has generated for the city in the last 12 months, with three alone attracting 4,125 delegates.
International association business now amounts to more than half of association revenue at the EICC, with Edinburgh rated as the number one UK conference destination outside London. It is set to redouble its efforts in the lucrative North American market with a partnership that aims to drive growth and bring even more international business to the EICC.
The exclusive deal with Sarah Fleming Associates (SFA) is focused on lead generation and follows a number of recent high profile US delegation trips to Edinburgh and the EICC team preparing for IMEX America. “The development and expansion work completed in 2013 delivered world-class facilities that are now starting to pay real dividends,” said Dallas.
“The EICC is now viewed as a venue to match any other, not only in the UK but worldwide. While we already have a significant amount of association and corporate business coming in from the US, market research indicates that we can attract even more,” said Dallas. The partnership means not only that it is covering the North American market as effectively as possible, but also that the EICC team can develop other countries and markets.
Building on its success in the association market, the EICC has been focusing on increasing the number and variety of events in traditionally quieter periods; for example, ‘An Experience with Arnold Schwarzenegger’ in January and the recent Comic Con and Insomnia Gaming Scotland events.
It is also hosting two major international events focussed on accessibility; the Autism European International Congress for 1,600 delegates and the Rehabilitation International Congress for 1,000 delegates. The EICC team has undergone awareness training, been audited by the National Autistic Society and has included a guide for visitors with autism in its recently relaunched website.
And Hollywood glitz returns later this year with Leonardo DiCaprio following in George Clooney’s footsteps to speak at the Scottish Business Awards dinner, attended by more than 2,000 guests.