Royal Highland Show officials warn they may need to limit Saturday ticket sales in years to come, as the show continues to grow.
A record-breaking 195,400 visitors made their way to the Royal Highland Show this year, which is organised by the Royal Highland and Agricultural Society of Scotland (RHASS).
Over the year, the society welcomed over one million people across 200 events at The Royal Highland Centre.
It comes as a three-year £15 million investment programme into the Royal Highland Show's 120ac site is nearing completion.
The money has been spent modernising utilities, upgrading existing event facilities and constructing a new £5 million conference and membership facility, which will be opened time for this year's show.
The society also delivered on its charitable remit, providing grants and awards exceeding £330,000 during 2019, including funding travel bursaries and providing over £225,000 to its educational charity, the Royal Highland Education Trust (RHET).
The year has also seen significant planning around the 180th Royal Highland Show. The 180th show will take place on June 18-21, 2020, and is shaping up to be the most sustainable one to date.
Special events planned for the landmark year include the opening of the new Members’ Pavilion, a fashion show and the celebration of the Lincoln Red breed as it marks its 125th anniversary.
Saturday ticket sales
However, RHASS chairman Bill Gray believes it will not be long before the success of the show will mean the society will need to consider limiting ticket sales for Saturday – the show’s busiest day.
He said: “As we retain our regular visitors and open up the show to new audiences, we need to ensure that the visitor experience delivered exceeds expectations.
"With growing numbers attending at the weekend, this becomes challenging, so we need to consider ways we can manage numbers on each day.
This won’t happen for this year but is likely to feature in the coming years. The reality is that if we keep growing, we may have a sell-out of our world-class customer experience on Saturdays – the busiest day of the show.
RHASS directors also gave their support to a review of transport and travel to the RHS, following the successful pilot of its public transport plan in 2019 which saw over 40,000 visitors leaving the car at home and travelling to the show via bus, tram and train.
New for the 2020 show is a comprehensive bus travel plan which will transport showgoers from major towns and cities throughout Scotland, providing a realistic alternative to car journeys.
Alan Laidlaw, RHASS chief executive, said: “The RHS has an ongoing commitment to improving its sustainability and environmental credentials and we will continue to promote its excellent public transport links as the ‘Best Way to get to the Show’.
"Our aim is to set the standard in sustainable travel for the event and would welcome all our visitors to ‘enjoy a dram and take the tram’, ‘let the train take the strain’ or ‘avoid any fuss and take the bus.'”
Last year over 50,000 day visitors parked at the showground during the four days. However, according to Laidlaw, this level of parking is simply not sustainable as the show grows.
He said: “We have invested significantly in ensuring the show is as sustainable as possible through recycling, reduced energy and water consumption as well as reducing food miles by sourcing local produce.
The final piece in the jigsaw is to reduce the environmental impact of travelling to and from the showground and the time has now come to take bold steps to actively discourage the use of cars as the primary mode of travel.
“Without a doubt, the biggest source of frustration amongst visitors is around travel time. The reality is that these roads are already congested due to heavy traffic coming to and from the city and the airport every day and it is not realistic to expect an additional 12,500 cars per day not to have a significant impact.”
He added: “We have allocated significant resources to collaborate with public transport operators to streamline getting to the showground by bus, train or tram. Feedback from users who have used this service has been overwhelmingly positive so we will build on this for the 2020 show and beyond.
“By incentivising public transport, we can support a change in behaviour that will secure the sustainability of the show.”