Mixing business with pleasure

Whether it’s the challenge of the great outdoors, the lure of culinary excellence, innovative team building activities for all ages or luxurious incentives and rewards, Scotland boasts a portfolio that’s bursting with ideas.
    
Only in Scotland can you walk out of Glasgow’s Scottish Exhibition + Conference Centre and within minutes board a seaplane for the ultimate breakout session flying over the Scottish Highlands, the Trossachs or Argyll National Park. Only in Scotland can you host a large event at the Macdonald Highland Resort in Aviemore then whisk your delegates off by funicular railway for a gala dinner in the Ptarmigan Restaurant at the top of CairnGorm Mountain. And only in Scotland can you finish a morning’s business at the Edinburgh International Conference Centre and start the afternoon session with inspiring team building activities in the picturesque grounds of the jewel in East Lothian’s stately homes crown – Gosford House.

Scottish diversity
Scotland’s diversity provides a menu of activity options that will make any event special and memorable. There are plenty of opportunities for event organisers to let their imaginations run wild and plan activities that their delegates will not only enjoy, but learn from as well.
    
Among the highlights of what’s on offer are ‘meetings without walls’; a truly different alternative to balancing the books with the ultimate balancing challenge on off-road Segways; the opportunity to quite literally walk on water by trying out Wow Balls on a Scottish loch; bespoke and private whisky tastings at a stunning Edinburgh venue or intimate dining at an exclusive Chef’s Table.
    
Every major city boasts state of the art conference centres complimented by first class hotels to suit every budget, academic locations with accommodation options outside term times, plus churches, banking halls or even public bath houses restored and given new life as event venues. Add to that, a string of heritage locations, stately homes and castles, museums and galleries, dynamic cities, breathtaking coastline, rural locations, and Scotland has the perfect choice of facilities for events large and small.
    
Over 300 meeting planners bring their events to Scotland every year, an average of one a day, so this bustling location has the experience and infrastructure to tick every box on the critical plan. With Edinburgh and Glasgow rated in the top three in a list of European cities offering best value for money for association conferences, there should be every opportunity to take advantage of some of the very different and very special add-ons.
    
Catriona Anderson, marketing manager, associations, with VisitScotland’s Business Tourism Unit (BTU) says: “Often delegates choose to extend their stay and even bring their families for a short break. So, even if the budget won’t quite stretch to incorporating extras into the conference or event programme, we have a team of experts on hand to suggest packages for delegates considering this option.”

Golfing extras
As the true home of golf, Scotland boasts an unparalled selection of golf courses. Many of the top championship courses – Turnberry, Gleneagles, St Andrews, Royal Troon – have adjacent conference hotels with capacities for several hundred delegates. New courses are coming on stream all the time, including the much-vaunted Trump International Golf Development in Aberdeen and the new Castle Stuart Golf Course in the Highlands, which has future plans to create a luxury 75 bedroom hotel and spa.
    
Significant investment in existing facilities is ongoing with Fairmont St Andrews just completing a multi-million pound redevelopment that has seen its 209 rooms completely refreshed, a new spa introduced and the public areas redeveloped to integrate the conference and leisure facilities. The hotel, which hosted the 2009 G20 Summit, has a dedicated conference suite which can cater for up to 700 theatre-style in its Atrium.
    
The five red star resort, Turnberry, was also refurbished last year prior to hosting the 2009 Open, and offers 198 luxuriously appointed bedrooms, many with unspoilt sea views. Just recently introduced in the new 1906 restaurant is the ultimate behind-the-scenes dining experience at the Chef’s Table in the kitchen – a real corporate treat for special occasions or an incentive for hardworking staff.

The Great Outdoors
Undoubtedly Scotland is renowned for its vast natural landscapes and the plethora of outdoor activities that offer endless team building opportunities from swinging through the trees to white water rafting, orienteering and off-road safaris.
    
An exciting new addition to the list is Treezone at Rothiemurchus Estate in Aviemore, an aerial assault course that give delegates the chance to let out their wild inner man or woman. This exciting adventure playground, suspended from wires high up in the trees, has Tarzan swings and a monster zip-wire ride. Those brave enough to take part face 35 nail biting challenges on their journey through the forest canopy. And, in the central belt, adrenaline-pumping high wire forest adventures are available at Go Ape courses in Aberfoyle and West Lothian.
    
At Alladale Wilderness Reserve in the north east, ideal for a corporate getaway and recently named as one of the 101 best destinations in the world by Tatler Travel Guide, guests can take part in a range of activities including 4x4 safaris, deer stalking and guided hikes. The aim of the reserve is to restore a remote area of the Highlands to its natural glory, so revenue from corporate events is a vital lifeline for the project.
    
And for anyone wondering what it would be like to walk on water, outdoor adventure company Boots N Paddles has the answer. They offer Wow Balls, giant inflatable spheres that delegates are sealed into then launched into a loch where the challenge is to move backwards and forwards, side to side, and most probably upside down!
    
New for 2010 is a partnership between leading activity centres Craggan Outdoors in the Cairngorms, and experience specialists Wild Thinking and the Great Big Event Company. Together, the three companies offer an unbeatable two-day teambuilding package set against the stunning backdrop of the Cairngorms. Team building activities and challenges are combined with inspiring group workshops, all designed to build teams and identify leaders in an out of office environment. Workshops, run as meetings without walls, incorporate the natural environment and take place around a campfire, in a tepee or in the remote outdoors. Guaranteed to be a dramatic experience, the package will leave groups revitalised, refreshed and ready to achieve results when they get back to the day job.
    
For the truly adventurous Wilderness Scotland offers the chance to explore the most remote and rugged areas of Scotland with bespoke walking and adventure packages for small groups. Activities can include a challenging team treasure hunt, sailing the west coast or even sea kayaking.
     
And, not least, Scotland’s first Segway experience has launched at the newly refurbished Crieff Hydro in Perthshire. These two-wheeled, self-balancing, electric vehicles are a common site in European cities, but rarely seen in countryside environments. The off-road challenge at Crieff Hydro is a fantastic and unique driving experience that is already proving popular with corporate groups

Food, Drink & Popular Culture
Scotland’s other great claim to fame is the quality of its food and drink, and the highest quality of catering is a feature of every event, with many venues boasting a commitment to sourcing local produce and including it on their menus. The country’s credentials are underlined by its famous chefs such as Nick Nairn, Lady Claire Macdonald, Andrew Fairlie and Tom Kitchin whose influence permeates every corner of the country. Visitors can learn about cookery and food presentation by taking part in one of the many cookery schools throughout Scotland, such as the Nick Nairn Cook School in Stirling or the New Town Edinburgh Cookery School which provides corporate entertainment with a twist by inviting guests to take part in the preparation – but without the washing up!
    
In Edinburgh, the Scotch Whisky Experience beside Edinburgh Castle, offers private tutored whisky tastings for connoisseurs or novices new to Scotland’s national drink. Starting with a a sensory perception quiz, a fun ice breaker and team activity, the events are designed to inspire and educate guests through nosing whiskies from each of the four whisky producing regions. A highlight of every visit to the Scotch Whisky Experience is the chance to see the world’s largest collection of scotch whiskies, the Diageo Claive Vidiz Collection, almost 3,500 bottles set within a stunning glass vault lit with a Swarovski chandelier.
    
For team-building with a popular culture slant, Glasgow Science Centre’s ‘Wallace and Gromit Present … a world of cracking ideas’ really is a cracking idea for a team challenge. The ‘West Wallaby Street Treasure Hunt’ sessions, which can accommodate 20 -120 delegates, feature a range of challenges with a final prizegiving led by Wallace & Gromit themselves. The exhibition and associated events will feature at the Centre throughout 2010.
    
The test of a country’s credentials as an event location lies, however, in the companies and organisations it attracts and Scotland is up there with the best. The country’s real appeal will be underlined later this year when Scotland will host the world’s largest gathering of adventure tourism specialists at the seventh Adventure Travel World Summit. Expected to attract in the region of 500 delegates from nearly 50 countries, this global annual conference of the Adventure Travel Trade Association (ATTA) will take place at the Macdonald Aviemore Highland Resort in the Cairngorms National Park. That will mean 500 more people will take the opportunity to mix business with pleasure by experiencing what Scotland has to offer – and who will take that message back to their own countries to prove that while Scotland is serious about business, it is great fun as well.
    
With Scotland attracting organisations of the standing of ATTA, VisitScotland’s BTU is confident many more domestic and international associations will follow suit and put Scotland top of their agenda for their next event.

For more information

Tel: 0131 472 2355
Web: www.conventionscotland.com