A healthy destination

InvernessA resurgence in Americans returning to Europe, more indigenous companies choosing to stay closer to home, and the strength of the euro against the pound and the dollar are all factors combining to inspire a renewed sense of optimism around the business tourism sector in Scotland. In addition, 2011 is a year which will see an unprecedented number of large-scale projects – both new-build and redevelopments – opening their doors to provide yet more choice for meeting planners and event organisers.

All of which is all good news for a sector that, between leisure and business travellers, is a huge contributor to the Scottish economy and one of the country’s biggest employers. With almost three million business trips to Scotland in 2010, up 13 per cent on 2009, VisitScotland’s Business Tourism Unit (BTU) continues to fly the Scottish flag at home and abroad with a robust marketing programme aimed at existing and new markets.

Foreign interest
In Europe the pace of economic recovery varies from country to country, with France leading the charge and Spain yet to get off the ground. In terms of inbound business travellers to Scotland, interest from France has been gaining momentum over the past 18 months, while the BTU is noting a sudden upswing from Germany late 2010 onwards.

Enquiries continue to increase from lucrative North American markets too. Canadian visitor numbers are up 20 per cent on last year and more and more American companies are bringing incentive-based trips to Scotland to take advantage of the range of luxury venues on offer at competitive rates.

Amanda Henderson, BTU marketing manager, Europe, comments: “The wish list for European visitors is increasingly short-haul, but still with the appeal of the exotic, and obviously Scotland fits that bill in spades. France in particular is eschewing previously popular destinations in West Africa because of growing political unrest and is seeing Scotland as an undiscovered Celtic region.

“The net benefit to us is huge with French visitor numbers doubling to 44,000 from 2007 to 2009; and the value of enquiries rising from £1 milllion in business year 2009/10 to £3.6 million in 2010/11. Given results like these, our tourism providers are increasingly encouraged to partner with us and support our activities in Europe as they can see the value in the opportunity.”

In total, business tourism contributes over £800 million to the Scottish economy, with almost a quarter of all association conferences and events held in the UK being hosted by Scotland. Glasgow and Edinburgh are second only to London as the location of choice for government and other professional associations looking for something a bit different. And 2011 is certainly the year to find it!

Cultural heritage on the agenda

Tourism in all its many forms is the biggest employer in Scotland and the country is justly proud of its competitive advantage in providing one of the warmest welcomes in the world, a reputation for fine food and drink, a range of activities to challenge even the most adventurous and accommodation to suit every budget.

Headlining in investment are the culture and heritage facilities in Glasgow and Edinburgh, giving Scotland plenty to shout about this year.

First off the blocks will be the brand new £74m Riverside Museum beside the River Clyde which is opening this summer. Designed by internationally acclaimed architect, Zaha Hadid, this futuristic structure will house Glasgow’s existing transport collection and new exhibits, with the Clyde-built Glenlee Tall Ship berthed alongside. The museum can be hired in whole or in part for themed events and meetings, with capacity for up to 900 guests for receptions.

Edinburgh boasts two highly prestigious developments, both opening in 2011. This summer, the £46.4 million redevelopment of the National Museum of Scotland will transform this magnificent example of Victorian architecture into a world class 21st century experience. The Museum will open for corporate events from October, offering a range of different event spaces ideal for meetings and receptions. With the stunning Grand Gallery’s soaring atrium and 16 new galleries, there can be few more inspiring backdrops for gala dinners for up to 850 people.

The city’s other major project is the three-year refurbishment of the Scottish National Portrait Gallery, which will be completed this year. Previously hidden galleries and arcades have been uncovered that have both extended the space and returned this iconic building to its 19th century grandeur. Breathing new life into one of Scotland’s best-loved buildings, the transformation will be revealed in November when the Portrait Gallery opens its doors to exciting new exhibitions and welcomes corporate events into what will be a unique setting in the heart of the capital city.

A step back in time
In Stirling, always a popular choice for association conferences with both the University and Stirling Management Centre offering first-class facilities, the restoration of the Castle’s 16th century Royal Palace has just completed. Traditional craftsmen and women have been brought on board to restore the palace to how it was in the heyday of the royal court. With costumed characters and sumptuous surroundings, the Royal Palace will be the perfect backdrop for drinks receptions, offering the chance to step back in time to see life as it was and adding a different dimension.

Kerry Watson, marketing manager, Associations for VisitScotland’s Business Tourism Unit, is buoyant about the impact of the level of investment coming on stream and says: “The wealth of major new developments topping the bill in Scotland this year is unprecedented in recent years, with three projects alone accounting for over £150 million in terms of investment.

“With the 2014 Commonwealth Games looming, and so many high-profile projects launching, there is undoubtedly a renewed optimism in the sector, giving Scotland a greater competitive advantage.”

Doing business outside the cities

Fabulous venues are not just to be found in Scotland’s major cities. Around the country, there are a wealth of reasons to head to less well-known areas for greater choice, a wider flavour of what Scotland has to offer, and often cost benefits on top.

Close to Edinburgh, Fife’s Carnegie Conference Centre is a purpose-built meetings and events facility situated on private grounds adjacent to Carnegie College in Dunfermline. The Centre has recently completed a refurbishment to provide conferencing facilities for up to 250 delegates, with 25 meeting and break-out rooms, and a video conference suite. Food is very much on the agenda with two restaurant areas offering first-class dining overseen by a head chef who has worked in some of the most prestigious hotels in Scotland.

North Fife also boasts the superb New School of Medicine at St Andrew’s University. Following a £45 million investment, this cutting-edge new building is available for conferences and major exhibitions and, with the range of accommodation facilities within St Andrews, there is great scope for large events to be held in an historic seat of learning.

Only 15 minutes from Glasgow, one of the jewels in Scotland’s crown for healthcare and medical conferences is the multiple award-winning Beardmore in Clydebank. With 168 bedrooms, the Beardmore is the national public sector conference centre, and also hosts events for internationally renowned companies such as BAE Systems and 02. The new Beardmore Centre for Health Science provides a range of facilities equipped with innovative medical services for training doctors, surgeons, nurses and other clinicians and healthcare workers. Working in partnership with the adjoining Golden Jubilee National Hospital, the Beardmore has the ability to stream live surgical procedures and afford delegates the opportunity to interact with the medical team.

Also close to Glasgow is Lanarkshire, home to two World Heritage Sites – the Antonine Wall and New Lanark, a beautifully restored 18th century cotton mill village close to the dramatic Falls of Clyde. The New Lanark Hotel, Shawlands Park Hotel and Westerwood Hotel and Golf Resort each offer state of the art facilities for inspiring events all within easy reach of Edinburgh and Glasgow. In particular, Westerwood’s central location and capacity to host conferences up to 400, has hosted events on behalf of NHS 24hr; NHS National Services Scotland; Scottish Centre for Healthy Working Lives; Bowel Cancer UK and Breast Cancer Care.

A healthy dose of conferences

So far this year Scotland has welcomed:
The Association for Respiratory Technology and Physiology – 450 delegates, Glasgow Marriott Hotel
British Pain Society Annual Conference – 700 delegates, Edinburgh International Conference Centre
The British Psychology Society Annual Conference – 450 delegates, Glasgow Marriott Hotel

And still to come:
Annual Meeting of the Association for the Study of Medical Education (600 delegates) and the Eating Disorder Research Society (350 delegates) – Royal College of Physicians, Edinburgh
International Primary Care Respiratory Group – 1,000 delegates, Edinburgh International Conference Centre
International Convention on Science, Education and Medicine in Sport (3,000 delegates) and European Congress of Immunology (5,000 delegates) – Scottish Exhibition + Conference Centre

Help at hand
VisitScotland’s Business Tourism Unit is on hand to provide support, suggest the perfect venue for perfect events, plus offer advice and guidance on an unrivalled range of support facilities – from team building to fine dining.

Kerry Watson goes on to say: “With robust Ambassador Programmes in all of the major cities, combined with our own programmes in Stirling, St Andrews and the Highlands, we are in the enviable position of having a network of specialists who can match Scotland’s indigenous expertise with almost any area of healthcare. All of that makes Scotland a great place to do healthcare business!”

In short, Scotland has the prescription for memorable, inspiring and successful events – find out more in a few clicks by visiting www.conventionscotland.com

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