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Tourism economic impact assessment of the UK Giant Panda Project: summary report


Edinburgh Zoo participates in China's Giant Panda Breeding Programme. As part of the agreement between the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland (RZSS) and the Chinese Wildlife Conservation Association (CWCA), Edinburgh Zoo now houses two giant pandas for a ten year period (December 2011 to 2021). The research aimed to examine the potential tourism-related economic impacts associated with the UK Giant Panda project. It considered the scale of the visitor expenditure opportunity by developing a series of estimates based on four scenarios: the counterfactual case (where the panda project does not take place); the 'minimum case' scenario (no additional marketing activity beyond the zoo itself); the 'limited impact' scenario (limited additional activities delivered ad hoc by individual businesses and agencies); and the 'panda premium' scenario (a co-ordinated effort by a range of partners to exploit the visitor potential of the pandas).


The methodology consisted of: a review of actions taken by other panda zoos around the world and activities planned for Edinburgh; evidence from a review of Edinburgh Zoo written materials; discussions with key zoo staff members in Edinburgh and overseas; and discussions with key stakeholders in the Edinburgh and Scottish tourism sectors. The economic impact assessment approach followed HM Treasury's Green Book Guidance and SE's Guidance on Economic Appraisal. It used sources from: information provided by RZSS, including the Edinburgh Zoo Visitors Survey and an analysis of UK visitor gift aid declarations; tourism publications, such as the Edinburgh Visitors Survey and VisitScotland statistics; and economic publications, such as the Annual Business Inquiry, the Scottish Tourism Multipliers Study and the HM Treasury GVA deflators resources.


The report finds that the Giant Panda project has the potential to support a substantial increase in tourism revenue both for the zoo itself, and for the economies of Edinburgh and Scotland as a whole. Edinburgh's position as the world's smallest 'panda city' could potentially help the city to 'punch above its weight', both in terms of attracting visitors and building trade links to China. The pandas would generate a positive, but limited impact on visitor GVA as a stand-alone project. However, the most optimistic 'panda premium with cubs' scenario would lead to an approximate three-fold increase in the economic impact of the zoo at the Edinburgh level. The report estimates that this scenario would lead to: an extra £27.637 million of visitor expenditure spent in the Edinburgh economy (with an extra £19,273 million spent in the Scottish economy); an extra £12.989 million GVA generated in Edinburgh (an extra £9.058 million generated in Scotland); and the equivalent of 55 jobs supported across Edinburgh (38 across Scotland). The economic impact of the pandas will be dependent on the extent to which the zoo and the wider tourism community proactively develop additional activities based around the pandas.


The report suggests that a co-ordinated, city wide partnership to promote Edinburgh Zoo's pandas should: engage the international media; obtain corporate sponsorship; run cub-naming competitions; use social media and online streaming; introduce other Chinese species to the zoo; and establish a regular programme of marketed celebratory days to maintain interest in the pandas. The report recommends that SE (and its partners) should: disseminate the report's findings to tourism businesses across Edinburgh and Scotland, in order to raise awareness of the scale of the opportunity; identify ways of branding Edinburgh as a 'China-friendly' place to visit and do business; develop a new 'Panda Day' celebration in Edinburgh, from 2013 onwards; encourage senior Chinese politicians to visit Edinburgh Zoo as part of any future state visits to the UK; update the Edinburgh Zoo visitor questionnaire to include questions on the role of the pandas in people's decisions to visit the zoo; conduct further research to explore the partnership, conservation, trade, science, education and cultural benefits associated with the project; and undertake a follow-up study in twelve months' time to assess the actual economic impact of the Giant Panda project.

Author Frontline
Published Year 2012
Report Type Evaluation
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