Tourism chiefs target Russian businesses

TOURISM leaders are to visit Russia in an effort to build business trips to Scotland.

Officials said the move was the first of a series of efforts targeting emerging markets around the world.

A team from VisitScotland's business tourism unit, as well as representatives from hotels including the Old Course in St Andrews and Gleneagles and drinks firms Diageo and the Famous Grouse, are next month to visit Moscow and St Petersburg to promote Scotland as a destination for major conference and corporate clients.

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They are also to hold one-to-one meetings with private companies to encourage them to bring their employees to Scotland on so-called "incentive trips", where high-performing workers are rewarded for their efforts.

Caroline Packman, head of the business tourism unit, which says almost 1 billion was produced by the sector last year, said the drive was the first of a number of forays into emerging markets that could bring in millions of pounds to Scotland's economy.

She said: "From Russia, we already have quite a lot of incentive groups from companies, especially in the last year or so, who come for five-star-plus treatment, but we want more conferences."

The unit has pinpointed a number of Russian companies that either already have business links to Scotland or are looking to move into the Scottish market. Russian business tourism in the UK as a whole grew by 35 per cent over the past six years.

Packman, who joined the business tourism unit four years ago, added: "One of the great things about Scotland is that it has a range of products to offer companies from places like Russia - whether it is fishing in the countryside, or a large conference in Edinburgh or Glasgow."

In 2005, the Russian business tourism market was worth about 65 million to the UK, but Packman is hoping to boost that significantly north of the Border. The team is to visit India next year.

She said: "There is clear potential for Scottish business tourism suppliers in this high-growth market.

"We want to grow tourism in Scotland by 50 per cent by 2015 and business tourism is expected to grow faster than other sectors."