Reconnecting with the world through virtual travel trade event

David Adams McGilp.
David Adams McGilp.

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VisitScotland this week linked more than a dozen tourism businesses from Argyll and the Isles, Helensburgh, Loch Lomond and Dunbartonshire with global tour operators and travel agents in vital international markets through a virtual travel trade event.

More than 280 Scottish businesses virtually exhibited at VisitScotland’s Scotland Reconnect 2021, from Tuesday April 27 to Thursday April 29, with the aim of connecting and doing business with around 330 tour operators and travel agents from around the world.

The online workshop enabled Scottish businesses to connect with buyers in important international markets, to attract visitors and help rebuild the country’s tourism industry following the Covid-19 pandemic.

The tourism businesses from Argyll and the Isles that signed up include West Coast Tours (West Coast Motors), Wild At Art Ltd, The Majestic Line, Lodge and Inn On Loch Lomond, MGM Muthu Hotels, Tobermory Distillery, Distell, The Machrie Hotel and Golf Links, Lennox Of Lomond, Love Loch Lomond, Cameron House, 4×4 Adventures Scotland Ltd and Sweeney’s Cruise Co Loch Lomond. The Tartan Road exhibited for the first time, along with Islay and Jura Tourism Marketing Group.

Nationwide organisations like the National Trust for Scotland, which operates Arduaine Garden, Crarae Garden and Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s The Hill House, also took part.

Buyers attended from 26 countries and regions, including the USA, Canada, Germany, France, Italy, Spain, the Netherlands, Scandinavia, Australia, Brazil and the Middle East, as well as London-based inbound operators representing the Japanese and Chinese markets.

Delegates took part in one-to-one meetings, as well as round table discussions on the latest issues affecting world travel and tourism. There was also a chance to hear about new tourism product offerings, trends like agri-tourism and adventure tourism and VisitScotland’s drive towards responsible tourism.

VisitScotland’s head of engagement, Denise Hill, also met in conversation with Tom Jenkins, chief executive officer of the European Tour Operators Association, and Joss Croft, chief executive officer of trade association UKinbound. There was also a look ahead to The Year of Scotland’s Stories in 2022, a showcase of the country’s rich literature, film, oral traditions, myths and legends.

As collaboration and cross-selling are key to developing the ideal tourism offering, there was an exclusive networking session for Scottish businesses on Monday, the day before the event got underway, to allow businesses to connect with each other in an informal one-to-one basis.

Events including VisitScotland’s annual Expo travel trade showcase and programmes of business development missions have long been critical platforms for facilitating international connections, but rendered impossible by Covid-19 restrictions, new digital platforms like Reconnect have been developed.

David Adams McGilp, VisitScotland’s regional director, said: ‘VisitScotland supports members of the tourism industry in Argyll and The Isles, Helensburgh, Loch Lomond and Dunbartonshire in their aspirations to internationalise and to attract more business and income from international markets as travel restrictions are eased in 2021.

‘Demand is building and Argyll and the Isles tourism businesses are ready to offer a warm welcome back to visitors when the time is right.

‘Scottish tourism punches above its weight on the world stage and we need to leverage this reputation to bring new investment, new events, new airlines and new visitors once visitors can travel freely in 2021/22 again.

‘Until Expo can return safely, Scotland Reconnect is the next best way to keep Scotland at the forefront of people’s minds.’