Second successful virtual travel trade event
A VIRTUAL travel trade event aimed at reconnecting Scottish tourism businesses with global tour operators and travel agents in vital international markets has been hailed a major success.
The Scotland Reconnect 2021 event – organised and run by VisitScotland – took place at the end of April and saw over 7,000 pre-arranged business meetings take place over the three days. Almost 390 buyers from 26 countries were able to connect online with almost 300 Scottish suppliers for business meetings aimed at booking and creating tour packages for future visitors. Forty-one of the buyers and 61 of the exhibitors were new to working with VisitScotland on a travel trade event of this kind.
Scotland Reconnect 2021 followed the success of a similar pilot event in November – the first of its kind to be delivered by the national tourism organisation. It exclusively promotes Scotland and enables Scottish businesses to connect with buyers from around the globe digitally, helping the recovery of the country’s tourism industry through product development and contracting for the end of 2021 and into 2022.
Around 600 delegates attended each day and took part in 1-2-1 meetings, as well as round table discussions on the latest issues affecting world travel and tourism. There was a chance to hear about new tourism product offerings, trends like agritourism and adventure tourism and VisitScotland’s drive towards responsible tourism.
Buyers from the USA, Canada, Germany, France, Italy, Spain, the Netherlands, Scandinavia, Australia and Brazil all attended the virtual event, as well as London-based inbound operators representing the Japanese and Chinese markets.
Events, including VisitScotland’s annual Expo travel trade showcase and programmes of business development missions, have long been critical platforms for facilitating these connections but rendered impossible by Covid-19 restrictions this year, new digital platforms like Reconnect have been developed.
A total of 17 regional Destination Management Organisations attended and there were 12 regional destination showcases, including Tay Region, South of Scotland, Argyll & Isles, Ayrshire & Arran, VisitCairngorms, Destination Orkney and Visit Moray Speyside, all sharing with buyers what makes Scotland and its regions so unique, including their landscape, history, food and drink, culture and warm welcome.
Laura DeMaio, Supplier Relations & Product Development Manager at Great Value Vacations, said: “Scotland Reconnect has provided me with an excellent opportunity to meet with our existing, as well as key potential partners – and the timing could not have been any better this year!
“As we appear to be nearing the time when we can send our travelers back to Scotland, my 1-2-1 meetings have been incredibly helpful in terms of securing rates for 2022, learning what is happening in all parts of the destination and fully understanding how eager and ready Scotland is to welcome us back!
“While meeting in person is always preferable, VisitScotland has perfected all aspects of the virtual platform – including the registration and pre-conference communication process, the resources provided before and during, and with the actual execution of the program and the meetings.”
Returning USA buyer Susanna Maria Mueller, Destination Manager Scotland for Tour Partner Group – UK / Formerly Hotels & More, said:“Scotland Reconnect has been brilliant for catching up with long standing partners and making new connections. It was wonderful to speak to like-minded people who are as passionate about tourism and Scotland as I am.
“Despite the current situation, everybody seemed very positive and eager to welcome back inbound tourism. Thanks a million to the great team of VisitScotland and for organising this event.”
Russell Murray, Business Development Manager at Wilderness Scotland, said: “Attending the Scotland Reconnect event this year formed a key part of our trade strategy by enabling us to get back in front of international buyers and rekindle many of those travel trade relationships that will be central to our company’s restart this and next season.
“Being a virtual event this year and by splitting our appointment schedule amongst the senior trade team at Wilderness Scotland meant no shortage of meetings with key buyers and all from the comfort and convenience of your own home.”
Fellow exhibitor Emily Woolard, from The Tartan Road, said: “It was great to have the opportunity to celebrate Scotland as a destination and show examples of the bespoke luxury trips we can build for overseas guests. Buyers from across the globe were in attendance and we made some very useful connections. It’s encouraging to know that demand is there and international visitors are anxious to return to Scotland when the time comes.”
John Thurso, VisitScotland Chairman, said: “This event has once again proven a great success at a time when reconnecting our amazing Scottish tourism businesses with tour operators and travel agents in vital international markets has never been so important.
“This last 12 months has been devastating for tourism across the world but hopefully as travel restrictions ease, we can begin to plan some brilliant new Scottish programmes, products and itineraries for our international operators.
“I understand some fantastic and very valuable new connections have been made during the many 1-2-1 Scotland Reconnect appointments and I hope our buyers were both inspired and informed about our unique country through the regional destination showcases and panelist sessions.
“Tourism is a force for good – creating economic and social value in every corner of Scotland and enhancing the well-being of everyone who experiences it. Tourism makes Scotland richer, economically and socially and without it, Scotland would be a much poorer place.”