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Thursday, June 20, 2024

Making The Highland Connection  

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Travel trade event hailed a success  

Tourism businesses from the Highlands were amongst those from across Scotland that took part in more than 7,000 meetings with travel intermediaries – including tour operators, travel advisors and Destination Management Companies representing Scotland’s most important visitor markets – at a recent event.  

Almost 30 businesses from the region attended the national tourism organisation’s flagship travel trade event, VisitScotland Connect 2024, which is designed to grow the country’s share of global travel in a sustainable way.

VisitScotland Connect is an annual travel trade event, and will provide a quality platform to help drive tourism growth. These events, which have had responsible tourism at their heart, generated thousands of meetings between Scottish businesses and tour operators, travel advisors and destination management companies.

It was held at the P&J Live in Aberdeen.  

The total number of meetings held across the two days was up by 1,000 on 2023 and this year’s event was attended by a total of 222 trade-ready Scottish tourism businesses, including accommodations, visitor experiences and attractions – a 27% increase on 2023.  

During the course of these meetings, they connected with almost 260 travel intermediaries – who plan Scotland trips for their clients – representing 23 countries, including those in North America, Europe, Asia-Pacific and the UK domestic market.   

Their discussions will ensure that Scotland continues to feature in the portfolios of global tour operators and that the holiday offering continues to evolve and fit the demands of the modern traveller.  

Among those who attended from the region this year were the Grant Arms Hotel in Grantown on Spey, Rothiemurchus Estate, High Life Highland, Cruise Loch Linnhe, Dundreggan Rewilding Centre, Cawdor Castle & Gardens, Kingsmills Hotel Group, Curling Experience at Aviemore, MGM Muthu Hotels, Nevis Range, Balmacara Hotel and Perle Hotels.

The region was also promoted by VisitCairngorms.

Global travel continues to grow post-pandemic, and the return of international markets to Scotland has been very much in evidence. Scottish tourism businesses are keen to take advantage of higher-spending long-haul visitors in particular, and increasingly recognise that working with the travel trade is a way to access that opportunity.   

As many as 64% of international visitors to Britain use travel intermediaries to plan and book their package.

Among long-haul travellers this rises to 73%, so working with travel intermediaries can be a very targeted and lucrative way to get Scottish tourism into our core markets and for businesses to secure future bookings.  

In addition to the travel trade event in Aberdeen, a specially curated programme of familiarisation trips (fam trips) showcased the best of Scotland’s tourism offering, including three covering the Cairngorms, Inverness, Loch Ness and the North Highlands.

The Grant Arms Hotel, Uile-bheist Distillery, Glen Mhor Hotel, the Highland Folk Museum, Cawdor Castle, Dornoch Station Hotel, Loch Ness Discovery Centre and Inverness Castle were among businesses that hosted fam trips.  

These took place in the days immediately preceding and following VisitScotland Connect and staff representatives hosted attendees on trips to different parts of Scotland. 

Across all these fam trips, 129 buyers attended 13 pre and post-event fam trips showcasing 200 businesses and covering 20 regions – from the Scottish Borders to Orkney, and Fife to the Highlands.  

The bespoke itineraries were created to introduce the international and UK tour operators to locations and experiences which would meet their demand for more responsible tourism options – including less travelled routes, public transport and immersive and community-driven experiences.

Themes also included Scotland’s rich culture and heritage, adventure and activity holiday options, as well as agritourism and Scottish food and drink experiences.  

Chris Taylor, VisitScotland Destination Development Director, said:

“Once again, our fantastic Highland tourism businesses all did an amazing job of showcasing this beautiful region and its tourism opportunities to a worldwide audience at VisitScotland Connect.

“Their feedback on the event and the quality of meetings they held has been overwhelmingly positive. 

“Our visitors – both international and domestic – are vital for the sustainable growth of the visitor economy here in the Highlands – staying longer and spending more money in our local communities.

“VisitScotland Connect provides a quality platform to help drive that visitor economy and offers a targeted opportunity for key buyers and suppliers.  

“This event again reflected the importance of responsible tourism, by highlighting businesses with the best sustainable and inclusive practices.   

“VisitScotland Connect is only one element of a comprehensive intermediary marketing strategy which works year-round to bring visitors to the Highlands.”     

Gina Clark, Director of Sales Scotland, Marine and Lawn Hotels and Resorts, said:

“VisitScotland Connect was a great opportunity not just to introduce our hotels that have been open for a couple of years but for us to introduce Dornoch Station, which is our newest hotel and opened in September last year. 

“The event is a perfect way for us to meet international buyers all in one place and from the different locations that we’re trying to target.

“It’s all about the relationships and nothing beats that face-to-face connection and being able to find out information straight away. It will definitely help us generate sales.

“The pre and post event fam trips have been amazing as well, as people are able to come and see the hotels and experience them first-hand.”

Stephen Cotter, who is based in the UK for CIE Tours, USA, said:

“VisitScotland Connect is very important to us – it’s the biggest event in Scotland.

“Each year we have a lot of business that comes to Scotland. 

“We deal with about 150 suppliers throughout the UK and throughout Scotland so it’s great to see everybody under the one roof in a short space of time.

“We see them-face-to face, which makes a huge difference, and also discover new things that we don’t know about.”   

VisitScotland Connect will be held again on 9 and 10 April 2025, at the P&J Live.  

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