Highland tourism businesses looking to reconnect with international markets
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More than 30 tourism businesses from the Highlands will be linked with global tour operators and travel agents in key international markets through a virtual event next week.
They will be among some 280 Scottish companies exhibiting at VisitScotland’s Scotland Reconnect 2021, from April 27-29, aiming to connect and do business with more than 330 tour operators and travel agents from around the world.
The online travel trade workshop exclusively promotes Scotland and enables Scottish businesses to connect with buyers in international markets, to attract visitors and help rebuild the country’s tourism industry following the pandemic.
In 2019, international visitors made 3.5 million overnight stays in Scotland, spending £2.5 billion, which was 43 per cent of the total overnight spend. Inbound passenger numbers to the UK in July 2020 were 89 per cent fewer at 1.3 million passenger arrivals, down from 11.1 million arrivals in July 2019.
Tourism businesses from the Highlands signed up to Scotland Reconnect 2021 include the Kingsmills Hotel Group, High Life Highland, Cruise Loch Ness, Skye Connect, Grant Arms Hotel, Assynt House, Aros Centre, Highland Lassie Island Cruises Limited and Achnagairn Estate. Eleven local "exhibitors" are attending the Scotland Reconnect event for the first time, including Wilderness Scotland, Downright Gabbler, Royal Dornoch Golf Club and Airts and Pairts.
Jane Cumming, co-owner of Downright Gabbler, said: “We’re delighted to participate in Scotland Reconnect for the first time this year. Our business is quite unique – we run a range of events which use the finest Scottish food and drink to tell stories about our history and culture, so this is a brilliant opportunity for us to explain the concept to others.
“It’s particularly useful for us because we want to reach those people who arrange trips for independent travellers from the UK and overseas. And, having had our plans on hold for more than a year now, it’s a wonderful way to start making connections across the industry.”
The inaugural Scotland Reconnect event last November involved 5000 meetings. This year buyers from 26 countries – including the USA, Canada, Germany, France, Italy, Spain, the Netherlands, Scandinavia, Australia and Brazil – are attending, as well as London-based inbound operators representing the Japanese and Chinese markets.
Charmaine Coutinho, product executive at Emirates Holidays, said: “Attending Scotland Reconnect, as the name truly suggests, is a great platform to engage and unlock new business potential contacts and we look forward to reconnecting with our long-standing partners. This event offers an opportunity to understand various perspectives of the current travel trends and focus on the fundamental recovery of the travel industry.”
Delegates will take part in one-to-one meetings as well as round-table discussions on the latest issues affecting world travel and tourism. There will be a chance to hear about new tourism product offerings, trends such as agri-tourism and adventure tourism and VisitScotland’s drive towards responsible tourism.
There will be destination showcases, including Visit Inverness Loch Ness and VisitCairngorms, to share with buyers what makes Scotland and its regions so unique, including their landscape, history, culture and warm welcome.
VisitScotland’s head of engagement, Denise Hill, will also meet in conversation with Tom Jenkins, CEO of the European Tour Operators Association, and Joss Croft, CEO of trade association UKinbound, to discuss global travel in the future. There will be 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.
Chris Taylor, VisitScotland regional leadership director, said: “VisitScotland supports tourism businesses in the Highlands in their aspirations to internationalise and to attract more business and income from international markets as travel restrictions are eased in 2021 and as we look ahead to 2022 and beyond.
“The last 12 months have been extremely challenging for everyone but we had a strong regional turnout to the inaugural event in November and feedback was very positive.
“Demand is building around the world and interest in the Highlands is very strong. Tourism businesses in the Highlands are ready to offer a warm welcome back to our international 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 a brilliant way to keep Scotland at the forefront of people’s minds.”