ONLY a week before the biggest tourism conference being held in Europe this season, City of Edinburgh Council is coming under increasing fire for a proposed savage budget cut for the organisation that promotes the city to the world.

The leading international group European Cities Marketing (ECM) will meet in the capital’s Sheraton Grand Hotel next week, with a record-breaking 200 delegates eager to learn about the successes and failures of Edinburgh’s festivals and other events. The event is being hosted by Marketing Edinburgh just a few days after it was revealed that the promotional organisation is to lose almost 90% of its budget from the Council over the next two years.

It will leave the city effectively without a direct marketing organisation (DMO) and the news has baffled tourist bureaux chiefs and events organisers across Europe.

Joss Croft, chief executive of UK inbound which is having a two-day conference in Glasgow this week, told Daily Business: “Edinburgh is a fantastic destination with a wealth of tourism product but there are many destinations and cities all around the world that are competing for international leisure visitors and lucrative events business.

“It is the second most visited city in the UK by overseas visitors and this proposed cut puts that at risk. At a time when the UK needs to be outward facing and establishing new trade partnerships – leaving the city without a DMO would undoubtedly hurt the city’s economy.”

The proposal for Marketing Edinburgh grant cuts totalling £890,000 over the next two years will go before a council meeting on February 21.

There is a window of public feedback on the proposal open until February 11, and the council has urged people to take part in the process.

Councillors will make a decision on February 21, when they set the council’s budget, with a need to identify around £33 million of savings next year.

Council Leader Adam McVey said: “In a tough financial setting we’ve worked hard to protect and prioritise frontline services by generating greater income and setting a fair, balanced budget which promotes inclusivity and protects the most vulnerable in society. This means we have to make tough choices on financial priorities.

“Clearly, promoting Edinburgh as a world class destination remains important for the Council and we must remain competitive in order to continue our city’s huge tourism success.

"In the event of this proposal being accepted we will discuss new ways of achieving this end with our partners in the public and private sector as part of our budget consultation to ensure that our global appeal remains strong.

“Edinburgh’s tourism offering is the healthiest of any UK city outside London and we welcome 4.5m visitors every year. Our visitor appeal is one of our biggest assets and a key driver of our local economy, supporting hundreds of jobs in the hospitality sector.

"But we’re a small, historic, city. Which means that for every resident who lives here, there are 10 tourists in the city. This clearly has an impact on our infrastructure. We have long highlighted the challenges Edinburgh faces to make sure our tourism offering remains as successful as it is now.

"That is why we are building a case for the powers to introduce a Transient Visitor Levy – more widely known as a ‘tourist tax’ – to help us offset such costs which, in the current financial climate, we simply will not be able to sustain.”