Scotland’s vibrant tourism and events industry has shown resilience and adaptability in abundance in the past year – but there’s a need for robust support for some time to come if our industry is to recover.

At VisitScotland, one strand of our ongoing support for the tourism industry is helping Scottish businesses retain and build connections with the international travel trade.

Activity includes providing platforms for businesses to meet digitally with the likes of destination management companies, tour operators, travel agents and other buyers based in the UK and overseas. Maintaining relationships is hugely important to generate potential business leads – and keep Scotland front of mind for when travel is possible.

Pre-pandemic, we ran our annual flagship travel trade event VisitScotland Expo and delivered regular overseas Business Development Missions, which have long been integral to building relationships and developing Scotland’s tourism appeal across international markets.

With in-person event restrictions, such events are not possible – at least for now. But, like many organisations, it has been important to adapt our approach. We have used technology to offer a place where Scottish businesses can connect digitally with influential buyers, to plan and secure future business and form relationships.

Last November we delivered our first digital Scotland Reconnect event. This pilot event saw 264 buyers from 23 countries connecting online with 240 Scottish suppliers for business meetings aimed at booking and creating tour packages for future visitors.

Each April, we usually host VisitScotland Expo, which gives international buyers an opportunity to experience what Scotland has to offer at first hand and meet with suppliers. In 2019, our last live VisitScotland Expo, we hosted the largest event in our history. It facilitated a record 10,000 appointments between exhibitors and buyers and we worked with airline partners to provide flights for international buyers from key markets.

Unfortunately, current restrictions don’t allow us to host a physical VisitScotland Expo in 2021 – as we had perhaps hoped for upon cancellation of our 2020 event, due to take place at The Event Complex Aberdeen. We know that physical events will return one day when it’s safe, so for the time-being we’ve decided to continue with a fully online events programme.

In place of Expo this year, we will host Scotland Reconnect 2021 from 27-29 April at which around 7,500 business meetings are anticipated to take place. The event has two key purposes – keeping Scotland at the forefront of people’s minds when international travel is permitted and offering businesses an opportunity to generate future bookings and create new revenue streams.

We hope the event encourages Scotland’s tourism industry that online engagement can deliver business, as from our research we can see demand for our product has not diminished. We know the recovery of tourism won’t happen quickly, and ongoing support is vital to protect our industry, but that the appetite for travel to Scotland is still there in abundance.

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