Business events: an interview with Amanda Wrathall

Assembly Rooms

Amanda Wrathall has over 25 years’ experience in the events industry. Joining EICC in March 2015, Amanda is a former board member of Women In Tourism, DLP Alumni and Chairs the Edinburgh Tourism Action Group’s (ETAG) Business Events Group.

Business Events

The tourism sector is hugely important to Edinburgh, the wider economy and is worth £1.6 billion to the city. Business events in particular are one of the fastest growing segments and currently represent 20% of all tourism expenditure in Scotland.

Why invest in business events and what is their value to the city?

The Business events sub-sector crosses both the economic development and tourism sectors. They highlight our sectorial strengths, create highly skilled jobs and careers, as well as having significant financial, social and environmental impacts.

Taking the triple-bottom-line approach, business events are not only a valuable economic revenue stream but provide additional benefits that impact positively on communities and the environment, whilst at the same team delivering a positive legacy.

Business events also highlight Edinburgh as a global city where the world is welcome, in the same way as its festivals do.

What is key to the success of the Business Events sector in Edinburgh?

Part of Edinburgh’s success in the sector comes from its wealth of talented and passionate professionals working in collaboration for shared success.

This is applicable to partners in city organisations, national government and to the plethora of entrepreneurs across Edinburgh who create and manage events throughout the year. We are a small but perfectly formed capital in a well-connected country which allows for a collaborative approach.

Success comes from collaboration, linking with universities, connecting business events with our economic development and passionate industry professionals.  A good example of this collaborative effort is ‘Make It Edinburgh’ - a campaign involving multiple city partners from a variety of organisations including Edinburgh Airport and the Edinburgh Hoteliers Association, joining together to create a campaign that was accessible to all.

What makes Edinburgh so attractive to event organisers? What’s the appeal?

Access, heritage, infrastructure, knowledge economy, ambition, spirit and beauty. The city has many appealing qualities, all contributing to the overall pull of Edinburgh as a host city.  

There is a beautiful quote from Alexander McCall Smith:

'This is a city of shifting light, of changing skies, of sudden vistas. A city so beautiful it breaks your heart again and again.' For me, it sums up perfectly why Edinburgh is attractive for business events.

Many events choose the city because of our four world-leading universities and our history of education, enlightenment and innovation. Then because of experiencing our city these skilled workers may choose to relocate, or companies may choose to invest, impacts last long after a five-day conference has finished.

Strength and innovation across other sectors add to the appeal of the city for hosting events. A booming tech sector for example sees the city striving towards becoming the Data capital of Europe. In the EICC we have seen growth in tech conferences, particularly around data and programming. We have recently welcomed over 1400 attendees to a Linux Foundation Open Source Summit and 1200 developers at the largest Python Programming language conference in Europe.

The financial services sector in Edinburgh is the UK’s largest (with the exception of London) and is another example of a strong sector attracting business events. Life Sciences and the Creative Industries sectors also stand out, helping to attract the best and the brightest to the city.

What are your thoughts on Edinburgh gaining five places to 27th in the ICCA Country and City Rankings?

It was great to see the rise in the rankings that are made up by conferences that happen across the city in many venues. Edinburgh remains the 2nd most popular UK city for hosting major association events, second only to London, so it’s a fantastic result and testament the work that so many partners across the city put into attracting business events to the city.

What does the future hold for Business Events in Edinburgh?

I believe Edinburgh has a bright future. We are a popular destination for business events and the city has great people working every day to attract conferences to Edinburgh and to Scotland.

There are always challenges to be faced and complacency is not an option for those in the industry. We need to continue to develop and improve our offer to lead in an increasingly competitive market. Brexit is a risk, as we all know. Increasing global and national competition, political uncertainty, the availability of accommodation and infrastructure are all challenges we face. However, with sustained effort and focus we can work to overcome these challenges.

Tell us more about the Edinburgh 2020 Tourism Strategy

The Edinburgh 2020 Tourism strategy developed by ETAG, supports and channel the sectors efforts.  It also highlights ways in which the sector can sustain and grow in the interest of all its stakeholders. The strategy has given a real focus for growth since its launch and the results have outweighed expectations which is testament to the success of the organisation - a group of city-wide professionals working together to the benefit of all.

Edinburgh is embarking on the process of developing the new 2030 Tourism Strategy with a strong track record of growth. The world has changed dramatically since the current strategy was developed and it is essential that the city and the sector use this opportunity  consider how we can work differently, do things better, and build on the success.

Get involved

Visit the ETAG website to find a host of opportunities to connect with industry peers -

Find out more about Make It Edinburgh and access the brand and toolkit for us in your comms or presentations.