Scotland’s business events sector is on a journey

Scotland has an array of amazing venues, experts and institutions, and is therefore the perfect destination for association conferences, important corporate meetings, global product launches and incentives, writes Hamish Hutchinson

The global pandemic has seen a shift in how event planners choose a destination for their business events. Price and accessibility remain significant factors however a destination's reputation for tackling issues like climate change and human rights is just as important to event organisers and strategists.

For years Scotland has welcomed the world's greatest thinkers, pioneers, innovators and leaders to its many international congresses, conferences, and meetings.

For while the country is renowned for its history and heritage, breath-taking scenery, and warm welcome, it is also a land of ground-breaking pioneers, with world-leading institutions and innovators that can drive social and economic transformation.

It has an incredible history of innovation and invention, and on the foundation of this legacy Scotland has become a world leader in renewables, engineering, electronics, technology, life sciences and marine exploration. These Key Sectors are driving its economy into the future, bringing investment and opportunity.

VisitScotland’s Business Events campaign Journey to Change – which is aligned with the United Nations Sustainable Development goals – highlights the innovation, skills and developments taking place within Scotland that have the potential to tackle global environmental, economic, and societal challenges.

For several years, Scotland’s credentials have seen it attract some high-profile global events and its venues are becoming a driving force in sustainability.

Prior to the pandemic, between 2018 and 2019, the country welcomed more than 130,000 delegates to association conferences. Attendees included researchers, academics, entrepreneurs, industry leaders – a cohort of delegates at the forefront of their sectors.

In the same period association events and conferences contributed more than £206 million to the Scottish economy, with repeat visits and extended stays contributing a further £11 million.

Edinburgh hosted the first TEDSummit out of North America in 2019. Held at the Edinburgh International Conference Centre, which houses one of Europe’s most technologically advanced meetings and events spaces, it brought together around 1,000 of the most engaged members of the global TED community for performances, workshops, outdoor activities, and mainstage talks. It is a venue which has placed sustainability at the heart of every event it hosts as part of its new programme, Step Change – committing to making an environmental, societal, and economic impact.

Heading west and Glasgow will host for the COP26 UN Climate Change Conference. Scotland’s largest city is ranked in the top five cities in the world for promoting sustainable growth in the ‘meetings and events’ space by the Global Destination Sustainability (GDS) Index.

The GDS-Index scores cities by measuring and comparing the social and environmental sustainability strategies, policies, and performance of participating destinations and by sharing best practice from around the world.

COP26 will be a carbon-neutral conference and will meet the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change sustainability requirements for the delivery of the conference as well as supporting Scotland’s commitment to decarbonise by 2050.

One of Glasgow’s world class venues, the Scottish Event Campus (SEC), was selected as the venue for the global climate conference. With five interconnected exhibition and meeting spaces and a combined area of over 22,500sqm, the campus on the banks of the River Clyde includes prime event venues such as the iconic 3,000 seat SEC Armadillo and The SSE Hydro – a 14,300 capacity concert, sporting and special events arena.

With its Green Tourism Award, the venue has a best-in-class food strategy, championing high quality, environmentally friendly local suppliers in areas such as fruit and vegetables, meat and bread, whilst committing to reducing kitchen wastage to under one per cent of food purchases by 2025.

A leader in driving progressive change in the events catering market, SEC was the first accredited ‘Healthy Venue’ in the world by the World Obesity Federation.

Scotland’s world class venues are not confined to the cities. Indeed, the five-star luxury Gleneagles Hotel, in Perthshire, which played host to the Solheim Cup, has an exciting new hotel wing, Ochil House, creating a flexible range of meeting spaces, breakout rooms and event zones for groups of up to 100. And the iconic sporting and country estate is launching its first ever city outpost at St Andrew Square in Edinburgh with a luxury 33-bedroom Gleneagles Townhouse.

Remaining in the Scottish capital, Hickory is an award-winning catering and events business with a focus on quality, creativity, innovation, and a track record for outstanding events. The business was one of the first to be awarded Green Tourism’s Green Meetings accreditation for its corporate events and in recognition of its ongoing commitment to help tackling climate change.

In the north-east, P&J Live is Scotland’s latest state-of-the-art events venue. Designed to be a living environment to attract people and wildlife to the area, it has a network of more than 7km footpaths connecting it to the surrounding area and is powered by Aberdeen's food and garden waste. At 48,000 square metres of multi-purpose event space, it is the largest event complex in the north of Scotland. World-class conference and exhibition halls, a superior arena, spacious hospitality boxes and a high-end restaurant and combined with two on site hotels including the adjoining 4-star Hilton with 200 bedrooms and, the Aloft Hotel with 150 bedrooms.

Scotland is renowned for its history – indeed it is one of the main drivers for visitors – and conferences and meetings can get a flavour of the country’s rich and fascinating past with the many heritage venues on offer. These range from its castles – Stirling, Dundas and Edinburgh to name just a few – country houses, such as Hopetoun House in West Lothian and Winton House in East Lothian, to its five-star attractions, including the National Museum of Scotland and the Royal College of Surgeons.

Next year, Scotland celebrates the Year of Stories putting a spotlight on the wealth of stories inspired by, written, or created in Scotland. From icons of literature to local tales, the year aims to encourage locals and visitors to experience a diversity of voices, take part in events and explore the places, people and cultures connected to all forms of our stories, past and present.

Scotland has an array of amazing venues, experts, and institutions, therefore the perfect destination for association conferences, important corporate meetings, global product launches and incentives. So now is the time to start your journey.

Further Information:

Event Diary

The Security Event is set to be the first major exhibition to take place in the sector when it opens its doors on 7-9 September 2021 at the NEC in Birmingham and for the first time it will also encompass the National Cyber Security Show.

digitech21 will seek to demystify the increasingly complex technology landscape and will showcase a host of public sector best practice case studies and the very best solution providers, each of whom are helping organisations to transform and improve the way in which the public sector delivers services to the citizen.

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