Head of business events at VisitScotland Neil Brownlee reviews Scotland’s strong meetings offer and shares some of the national bureau’s strategic thinking
Scotland’s success on the global events industry stage is a trend that looks set to continue thanks to another step change in both investment and strategy for our world-famous destination.
Multi-million pound investments in famous Scottish destinations such as Gleneagles, Trump Turnberry, and Fairmont St Andrews will raise even further Scotland’s already high bar as a world-class destination.
Meanwhile a revitalised Scottish Cities & Centres Forum has brought together the main business events ‘movers and shakers’ with an ambition to fine tune and recalibrate Scotland’s reach to the global events market. On the same theme, Scotland’s national Ambassador programme will be relaunched later this year, including a new Corporate Ambassador role to encourage potential corporate clients to embrace the ‘Think Scotland, Think Conference’ initiative.
The outstanding teams in the principal cities of Edinburgh and Glasgow continue to deliver amazing business in both the Associations and Corporate sectors. And these are also transformational times for the North East of Scotland with Aberdeen’s new Exhibition and Conference Centre in development and for Dundee with its new Guggenheim-style V&A Museum of Design due to open in 2018 that will be a ‘game changer’ for the destination.
As ever, delivering business into all parts of Scotland outside of the main cities is fundamental. The University of the Highlands & Islands in Inverness has 13 outposts helping to promote smaller meetings in the academic field to places like Stornaway, Orkney and Shetland. This is not only a great example of the unique ability of business events to benefit all corners of Scotland but also makes use of the full variety of Scotland’s offer.
Strategic partnerships continue to be an essential part of our strategy. Last year Scotland hosted the PCMA’s Global Medical Meetings. This year, I gained valuable insights from spending time with a highly creative group of event planners from North America when Scotland hosted the first ever Global Events Summit with the International Live Events Association.
I am also excited by the possibilities presented by VisitScotland’s highly visible Spirit of Scotland consumer campaign (#scotspirit) which we are adapting as a key part of the business delegate experience. At the same time, Scotland’s year of Innovation, Architecture and Design has also gained traction with our audiences, rediscovering Scotland’s huge contribution in these areas. We expect the same with future campaigns including the forthcoming Year of History, Heritage and Archaeology.
Finally, the VisitScotland Conference Bid Fund, set up in 2012, has now helped to boost the country’s economy by £300m. The predicted economic boost has been achieved through £3m of investment from the Fund demonstrating the tremendous return and value of business events to the country.
With a rich product offering, a host of new investments and a determinedly joined-up approach, I feel confident and excited that Scotland continues to have a sustainable appeal to the global events industry.