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VisitScotland is linking Argyll and the Isles tourism businesses with global tour operators and travel agents through a new virtual event pilot entitled Scotland Reconnect 2020.
The first of its kind to be delivered by the national tourism organisation, Scotland Reconnect 2020 takes place from November 23 to 25 and offers international travel agents and tour operators, or ‘buyers’ the opportunity to connect and do business with Scottish suppliers online.
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 restrictions this year, new digital platforms like Reconnect have been developed and will see some 200 buyers undertake virtual meetings with around 200 Scottish tourism businesses.
In Argyll and the Isles these include West Coast Motors, Argyll and the Isles Tourism Cooperative, Lodge and Inn on Loch Lomond, Tobermory Distillery, Wild At Art Ltd, Luss Estates, Cruise Loch Lomond Ltd, St Hilda Sea Adventures, Slanj Loch Lomond Ltd, MGM Muthu Hotels, and The Machrie Hotel and Golf Links.
Buyers from the USA, Canada, Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Holland, Scandinavia, Australia and Brazil are attending Scotland Reconnect 2020, as well as London-based inbound operators representing the Japanese and Chinese markets.
In addition to facilitating some 4,000 business meetings, there will also be live webinars, round table discussions and breakout sessions, an online presentation hub and virtual experiences demonstrating what Scotland can offer buyers’ clients, including traditional music sessions with Gary Innes from top trad band Manran, whisky tasting experiences with Glengoyne Distillery and The Whisky Experience, as well as storytelling with Mercat Tours.
John Thurso, VisitScotland’s chairman, will open and close Scotland Reconnect 2020 and participants signed up to the event will also be able to hear from global tourism speakers and take part in round table discussions when VisitScotland’s head of engagement Denise Hill meets in conversation with Tom Jenkins, CEO of the European Tour Operators Association on the impact of Brexit on the German and US markets; and Joss Croft, the CEO of UK Inbound, who will be forecasting for 2021 and considering what businesses need to take into account when seeking to address current issues and challenges in global tourism.
VisitScotland’s senior insights manager Chris Greenwood will also run sessions on global trends and Covid-time consumer behaviour. Responsible travel, a theme of growing importance among travellers around the globe, will also feature on the agenda, as will the promotion of initiatives including Scotland’s Year of Coasts and Waters 2020.
David Adams McGilp, VisitScotland regional director, said: ‘This year has been extremely challenging for tourism businesses not only in Argyll and the Isles but right across Scotland.
‘Argyll and the Isles have always been top of the visitor destination list and Covid-19 will not change that. Demand is building and our region remains a priority for our international markets.
‘I am delighted that Scotland Reconnect 2020 has been created using our new online platform to ensure that businesses can continue to engage and convert that continuing interest into visits.
‘We look forward to reconnecting international buyers with our amazing Argyll tourism businesses, to demonstrate the strong tourism product this region has to offer, to secure business for the future and to ensure the recovery of our international markets in 2021 and beyond.’
Iain Jurgensen, chairman of Argyll and The Isles Tourism Cooperative, said: ‘We have been supporting our businesses in working with the travel trade for many years, primarily through VisitScotland’s Expo and are delighted that this online opportunity is now available. We all have a very steep hill to climb as we recover from this dreadful pandemic and seek to rebuild and reconnect.
‘We are really looking forward to meeting lots of buyers online, inspiring and then converting interest into actual experiences in Argyll and our many islands into the future at Scotland Reconnect later this month.’
Liz Aungier, director of product and vendor relations at USA-based Tenon Tours, said: ‘Scotland is very much a key market for Tenon Tours. VisitScotland Expo in Scotland every year is one of my favourite events to attend.
‘Being able to reconnect this year through a virtual event with our valued suppliers is very much welcome as we endeavour to be ready for the return of our clients to Scotland when the time is right.’
Gillian Crowther, group sales and admissions manager, Historic Environment Scotland, said: ‘We are really looking forward to taking part in Scotland Reconnect and to promoting our fabulous historic attractions to new and existing international clients.
‘Obviously 2020 has been extremely challenging but we are now focussing on rebuilding our visitor business and this virtual opportunity is a great platform to work with operators to plan programmes for 2021/22 and beyond.’
Jill Hampton, account manager for ScotRail, said: ‘After a difficult year, we are delighted to be part of this virtual event to reconnect with businesses across the globe to showcase what a fantastic country Scotland is.
‘We look forward to our beautiful country being fully reopen for business and this event will be a great opportunity to help international and domestic buyers plan and organise their trips for 2021 and beyond.’