Insight: Edinburgh Festivals have bigger commercial impact than Christmas -CACI

As the UK festival season prepares to get underway, analysis by CACI, the leading marketing technology and location planning specialist, has revealed the positive impact of major annual events on consumer behaviour.  Using insight from its new customer, catchment and centre Business Intelligence platform, Location Dynamics, CACI has revealed the Edinburgh International Festival and Edinburgh Fringe (both of which run from August 2 to 26 this year) create a commercial opportunity for retail and F&B businesses in the city bigger than Christmas in terms of consumer spend.

CACI has analysed the anonymous usage patterns of mobile devices across the UK, looking at how patterns of behaviour change during such major tourism events as the Edinburgh International Festival and Edinburgh Fringe, which were attended by a combined 3.2 million people in 2018.


  • Edinburgh’s catchment triples in size during the festivals, with people travelling from across the UK to visit.  Outside the festival period, the majority of visitors to the city travel from within a 69-minute drive time, rising to 125 minutes during Christmas.  This increases to 215 minutes in August
  • Whilst spending by tourists and residents at Christmas is higher than during the festivals (£72 versus £112 and £83 versus £58 respectively*), it is the ability of the festivals to attract such large volumes of tourists that creates the additional Christmas effect
  • Tourists and residents both spend consistently during the festivals, with conversion at 67% amongst tourists and 69% for residents
  • F&B spend increases significantly during the festivals compared to the rest of the year, driven by tourists, who spend an average of £14, compared to £11 for residents*.  As well as spending more, tourists are also more likely to consume food and drink, with a 36% conversion rate versus 27% for residents
  • Whilst the festivals attract people from a much greater distance, demographically there is consistency with the non-peak visitor profile: 22% are Executive Wealth; 12% Career Climbers; and 12% are City Sophisticates.  All three are the highest spending of CACI’s Acorn profiles


Commenting on the findings, Alex McCulloch, Director of CACI Property Consulting Group, said: “For many years, the Edinburgh International Festival and Edinburgh Fringe have anecdotally been referred to as the equivalent of a second Christmas for retailers and F&B operators in the city.  Our analysis, however, has revealed the festivals are an even bigger commercial opportunity for businesses than Christmas due to their ability to attract tourists and encourage spend by residents.

“The significance of the findings however goes beyond Edinburgh too as they demonstrate the value for cities, and indeed the owners and managers of destinations in cities, of embracing culturally rich and diverse events.  By doing so it is possible to increase spend, conversion and the scale of the catchment area from which visitors are attracted.  As importantly, events create additional reasons for consumers to engage with a destination, broadening its role in their lives by increasing its relevance.”

CACI recently brought together thought leaders in location planning to explore the dynamics of people and place in a digital world.  Whilst the industry debates whether the high street is in decline, CACI’s evidential analysis and industry leaders on the day actually highlighted the high street is buoyant and an effective option for many brands.


*All figures are taken from CACI’s general statistics for the months of August and December.


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