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An exclusive new event aimed at attracting more international visitors to Scotland helped 175 tourism businesses connect with over 250 tour operators and travel agents representing 23 countries.
Held at P&J Live in Aberdeen on 19 and 20 April, VisitScotland Connect offered Scottish businesses the chance to show their products and services directly to buyers from the UK, USA, Canada, Europe and Asia Pacific.
The two-day event has been created to help the country’s valuable tourism industry reach new visitors in new markets, in turn increasing international demand for Scotland’s diverse tourism offering.
Over 6,000 meetings took place, as well as a programme of day and evening networking opportunities.
Since the pandemic, visitors have been seeking extra reassurance and guidance offered by tour operators and travel agents.With more than half of international visitors using a travel intermediaries to plan and book, VisitScotland Connect forms a key part of the national tourism organisation’s strategy to bring visitors to Scotland throughout the year.
While in Scotland as part of a special programme of ‘familiarisation’ trips, these international buyers were also able to travel around the country to sample, in-person, the scenery, hospitality, produce and attractions of many regions and destinations.
They touched on all corners of Scotland taking in experiences like outdoor activities, iconic locations and landmarks, luxury experiences, island trips, food and drink, film and literature, farms and textiles, nature and wildlife and Scotland’s cities.
Scotland’s international profile will be raised this summer when the 2023 UCI Cycling World Championships take place across Glasgow and Scotland in August, bringing 13 UCI World Championships together into one mega event, making it the biggest cycling event ever with more than 1 million spectators projected to attend the event. Buyers also got to sample and hear more about Scotland’s cycling tourism offer. Small Business, Innovation and Trade Minister Richard Lochhead said: “Scotland’s international reputation as a warm, welcoming tourism destination remains strong, and visitor numbers are increasing as people from across the world come to enjoy our varied heritage and breath-taking natural landscapes.
“VisitScotland Connect provided a great opportunity for Scottish businesses to connect with key buyers from around the globe to help drive bookings and attract visitors, from near and far.
“The Scottish Government is continuing to support and work closely with the tourism and hospitality sectors to achieve our shared ambition for Scotland to be the world leader in 21st century tourism and to be one of the most economically, environmentally and socially sustainable destinations in the world.” VisitScotland’s Director of Marketing, Vicki Miller, said: “Once again, Scottish tourism businesses came together to showcase this wonderful country to a global audience. “International visitors are vital for the sustainable growth of the visitor economy staying longer and spending more money in our local communities across Scotland.
“International visitors account for approx. 20% of total inbound visits but 43% of total spend. July to September 2022 was a record quarter with international trips up 7% in comparison to the same period in 2019. We also saw spending up 34% with Scotland bucking the trend in comparison to other parts of the UK, evidencing the demand for Scotland’s authentically unique experiences.*
“By working closely with businesses and our travel partners, we want to make sure that Scotland continues to be a must visit destination.” “Partnership and collaboration is at the heart of Scottish tourism and VisitScotland works with local industry to develop and deliver initiatives that grow the visitor economy. Collaboration makes economic sense; it allows us to extend our reach and help bring our visitor offering to a wider range of audiences”.
“The event reflected our focus on responsible tourism, highlighting businesses with sustainable and inclusive practices. “VisitScotland supports the tourism industry in its aspirations to internationalise and to attract business and revenues from international markets in 2023 and beyond.”
Tristram Yarde-Leavett, Managing Director, Tourwise of London said: “After so long without being able to meet face to face, VisitScotland Connect was THE place to meet our supplier colleagues. It was good to be back. As well as re-acquainting ourselves with existing partners, we were able to meet many new attractions that were attending for the first time. Scottish inbound tourism is currently riding on the crest of the wave as far as the US market is concerned, and we are seeing a high level of bookings in 2023. This event helps us plan for next year and beyond to maintain the momentum.”
Adam Civico, Head of Content Marketing at Promote Shetland said: “It was great to see the return of an in-person event, and Promote Shetland really enjoyed attending VisitScotland Connect in Aberdeen. “Our diary was fully booked and we met tour providers and buyers from around the world to sharing the delights of Shetland. VisitScotland Connect was a hugely positive event for tourism in the islands.”
Lee Medd, Group Marketing and PR Manager, Annandale Distillery Group said: ”The travel trade events hosted and organised by VisitScotland are crucial to the success of the tour side of our business. It’s great that we can meet with travel buyers and tour operators from across the globe, many of whom we would usually struggle to connect with.
The ability to make connections and explain directly to these buyers how we can create and tailor our tours for groups not only large and small, but what we can provide in different languages will really help our business grow.”
Janette Mitchell, SimpsInns Sales & Revenue Manager said: “We were delighted to get back and meet people face-to-face once through VisitScotland Connect in Aberdeen. This was the first real opportunity to meet colleagues in person from across the industry since we have come out of the pandemic. “We believe it is vitally important to meet and network with new and existing suppliers. It is the best way to forge new relationships and build on existing connections. “We enjoyed seeing old and new faces at VisitScotland Connect and we look forward to welcoming visitors to Ayrshire very soon.” For more information about VisitScotland Connect, visit: https://visitscotland.eventsair.com/visitscotlandconnect23/
For more information on cycling in Scotland, visit: https://www.visitscotland.com/things-to-do/outdoor-activities/cycling
*International Passenger Survey Quarter 3 2022 Estimates of overseas residents’ visits and spending in the UK - Office for National Statistics (ons.gov.uk) ENDS