THE expo 2015 travel trade fair gives us the opportunity to inspire tour operators with everything we have to offer, writes Malcolm Roughead.
If I was to ask you to picture “all of Scotland under one roof”, you might start to imagine a room filled with the peaceful yet dramatic landscape of Glencoe, the roaring crowds at Murrayfield and Hampden, the awe-inspiring Kelpies or perhaps the iconic Forth Bridges. As this is clearly not physically possible, let me explain to you why VisitScotland expo 2015 is the closest you will come to experiencing all of Scotland under one roof.
This year, the 36th staging of Scotland’s biggest travel trade event, is taking place in Aberdeen at the Aberdeen Exhibition and Conference Centre (AECC) on Wednesday and Thursday. Tourism businesses from across Scotland will be there to showcase the very best that our beautiful country has to offer, including everything from our food and drink and accommodation to entertainment, culture, the great outdoors and visitor attractions.
Let’s rewind a second – there really was no place like home for the people of Scotland during 2014 and we welcomed the world in their millions with open arms – and Tunnock’s teacakes! From the Glasgow Commonwealth Games and The Ryder Cup to the MTV Europe Music Awards and a breathtaking programme of more than 1,000 Homecoming events, we took tourism to the next level and delivered a year like no other.
With our awesome scenery, vibrant culture, spectacular heritage and delicious food and drink, Scotland is the perfect destination for a business or leisure trip, and as we welcomed people from all over the world in 2014 – we now need to take Scotland to the world and sell it like never before. For this reason, this year’s expo is the most important date in Scotland’s tourism calendar.
The main event will welcome almost 380 hosted international tour operators and travel agents and more than 200 hand-picked UK-based buyers. That’s not all, in terms of exhibitors, the AECC will open its doors to more than 230 businesses from across the country who have a Scottish tourism product to highlight.
Let me give you some stats. Last year in Glasgow there were more than 6,700 appointments over the two-day period – each one offering the chance to meet both old and new contacts, negotiate new deals and learn new ways of working together. This actually leads to direct business with more than £24 million worth of business expected to take place in Aberdeen over the two days.
A recent study found that 87 per cent of UK and 90 per cent of international buyers attending plan to add new suppliers to their current programmes. As VisitScotland’s flagship travel trade event, this is an invaluable opportunity to meet face to face with tour operators from across the globe.
This year, alongside major events such as The Open, the IPC World Swimming Championships and the World Gymnastics Championships, it is also Scotland’s Year of Food and Drink – a year-long celebration of the role that our incredible produce plays in shaping our economic success. We simply cannot afford to rest on our successes of 2014 and give ourselves a big pat on the back. We need to get out there and make the most of every opportunity that comes our way. We need to fly the flag and sing from the rooftops, and tell everyone that Scotland is the place to be.
That is exactly why this year’s expo is so important. It’s not every day that we welcome almost 580 buyers from right across the world to one big room in Scotland. With exhibitors from Dumfries & Galloway and the Scottish Borders to Orkney and Shetland, you can guarantee that Scottish tourism will be the star of the show. We won’t just be engaging with the industry over the two days, VisitScotland has organised a series of familiarisation (fam) trips to inspire tour operators to create new or expand existing Scottish holiday packages. From a film and fiction fam trip to a special food and drink tour, it’s essential that we fuel the imagination of our overseas tour operators, giving them inspiration for how they can package Scotland for their customers.
Let’s not forget this is the only business-to-business event for the travel trade that is focused purely on Scottish industry. Not only will millions of pounds worth of business take place, but the local economy will also benefit.
A study found that the expo generates £1.7 million for the local economy, with money being spent on accommodation, transport, restaurants and much more.
Tourism is more than a holiday experience – it creates jobs, sustains communities and provides an international shop window for Scotland. Last year we proved Scotland was the perfect stage for sporting, cultural and business events and at expo 2015 we will continue to deliver economic success by showcasing Scotland to the world. With an estimated £24m worth of business likely to take place, this is exactly why this year’s expo is the most important date in Scotland’s tourism calendar and I personally cannot wait.
• Malcolm Roughead is chief executive of VisitScotland visitscotland.com