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Academics voice anger as 89% cuts threaten bureau

Academics across Edinburgh have slammed proposed budget cuts that would see an 89 per cent drop in the capital’s marketing budget over the next two years – and the closure of the city’s conference ambassador programme.

More than 75 members of the Edinburgh Ambassador programme have contacted Edinburgh City Council objecting to draft proposals that would slash Marketing Edinburgh’s budget by £790,000. The move is part of a package of cuts to balance the books amounting to around £47m.

Speaking in support of Convention Edinburgh, the business tourism arm of Marketing Edinburgh, leaders from various disciplines, said the city’s reputation as a conference destination was at stake.

All 75 ambassadors have worked or are currently working closely with Convention Edinburgh to bring conferences to the city. More than 540 academics and industry leaders belong to the ambassadors’ programme. Since 1998, they have secured 1,348 conferences with 528,605 delegates to Edinburgh which resulted in an economic impact of £900m for the city.

In a letter to City of Edinburgh Council, Dr Richard Reardon, senior lecturer in Equine Surgery, The University of Edinburgh University said: “Removing more than half-a-million from Marketing Edinburgh’s financial plans would leave Scotland’s capital as the only major city in the developed world without a convention bureau.

“Who else will champion Edinburgh on a national and global scale as a conference destination? Who else will act as the critical lynchpin between academia and the city, leading on city bids and persuading associations to hold their conferences in Edinburgh? As plans currently stand, no-one will. I would ask that all councillors play your part in ensuring their survival.”

Felicity Mehendale, honorary senior clinical lecturer at the University of Edinburgh, said: “Winning bids for prestigious international congresses brings significant business to Edinburgh and many repeat visitors. However, bidding is now extremely competitive, and we simply cannot rely solely upon the academic reputation of Edinburgh – we absolutely need an organisation like Marketing Edinburgh to help with the many aspects of conference bidding which is beyond our remit as academics.”

Amanda Ferguson, Convention Edinburgh

Amanda Ferguson, head of Business Tourism, Convention Edinburgh, said: “Reducing our budget by such a large amount means we would no longer be able to support our ambassadors to bring conferences to the city and thereby deny the city important economic impact and opportunity to showcase the strength of our knowledge economy.

“Without a body that unites public and private sectors in the city’s promotion and economic development, we will severely compromise Edinburgh’s ability to attract conferences. I would ask that Edinburgh’s Councillors work with us to find an alternative solution that will not jeopardise the good work underway by Marketing Edinburgh and our ambassadors.”

Councillors will vote on the city’s 2019/20 proposed budget on 21 February.

AMI has contacted Edinburgh City Council for a response.