VisitScotland Connect 2024 a roaring success!

Making the Connection - P & J Live events centre
Roderick Low

More than 7,000 meetings took place between Scottish tourism businesses and travel intermediaries - including tour operators, travel advisors and Destination Management Companies representing Scotland’s most important visitor markets – at an event held in Aberdeen.

The national tourism organisation’s flagship travel trade event, VisitScotland Connect 2024, is designed to grow the country’s share of global travel in a sustainable way and was recently held at the P&J Live in Aberdeen.

The number of meetings held was up by 1,000 on 2023 and this year’s event was attended by 222 trade-ready Scottish tourism businesses, including accommodations, visitor experiences and attractions – a 27% increase on 2023.

During the course of these meetings, they connected with almost 260 travel intermediaries - who plan Scotland trips for their clients – representing 23 countries, including those in North America, Europe, Asia-Pacific and the UK domestic market.

Their discussions will ensure that Scotland continues to feature in the portfolios of global tour operators and that the holiday offering continues to evolve and fit the demands of the modern traveller.

Global travel continues to grow post-pandemic, and the return of international markets to Scotland has been very much in evidence. Scottish tourism businesses are keen to take advantage of higher-spending long-haul visitors in particular, and increasingly recognise that working with the travel trade is a way to access that opportunity.

As many as 64% of international visitors to Britain use travel intermediaries to plan and book their package. Among long-haul travellers this rises to 73%, so working with travel intermediaries can be a very targeted and lucrative way to get Scottish tourism into our core markets and for businesses to secure future bookings.

In addition to the travel trade event in Aberdeen, a specially curated programme of familiarisation trips (fam trips) showcased the best of Scotland’s tourism offering.

These took place in the days immediately preceding and following VisitScotland Connect and staff representatives hosted attendees on trips to different parts of Scotland. In total, 129 buyers attended 13 pre and post-event fam trips showcasing 200 businesses and covering 20 regions - from the Scottish Borders to Orkney, and Fife to the Highlands.

The bespoke itineraries were created to introduce the international and UK tour operators to locations and experiences which would meet their demand for more responsible tourism options – including less travelled routes, public transport and immersive and community-driven experiences. Themes also included Scotland’s rich culture and heritage, adventure and activity holiday options, as well as agritourism and Scottish food and drink experiences.

Stephen Leckie, Chair of VisitScotland, said: “This was my first event as the new Chair of VisitScotland and what a fantastic event to begin my tenure! I had the pleasure of meeting and chatting to many passionate and enthusiastic representatives of our Scottish tourism industry over the two days and their feedback on the event was overwhelmingly positive. They all did a stellar job of showcasing our amazing country and its tourism opportunities to a worldwide audience.

“Our visitors – both international and domestic – are vital for the sustainable growth of the visitor economy in Scotland - staying longer and spending more money in our local communities. VisitScotland Connect provides a quality platform to help drive that visitor economy and offers a targeted opportunity for key buyers and suppliers.

“VisitScotland works with the industry to develop Scotland as one of the most economically, environmentally and socially sustainable destinations in the world and this event again reflected the importance of responsible tourism, by highlighting businesses with the best sustainable and inclusive practices.

“VisitScotland Connect is only one element of a comprehensive intermediary marketing strategy which works year-round to bring visitors to Scotland.”

Gina Clark, Director of Sales Scotland, Marine and Lawn Hotels and Resorts, said: “VisitScotland Connect was a great opportunity not just to introduce the hotels that have been open for a couple of years, but for us to introduce Dornoch Station which is our newest hotel, having just opened in September last year.

“It gave us the chance to meet international buyers all in one place and from all the different locations we’re trying to target. It’s all about the relationships and nothing beats that face-to-face connection and being able to find out information first and straight away, from the horse’s mouth, so to speak.”

Stephen Cotter, who is based in the UK for CIE Tours, USA, said: “VisitScotland Connect is very important to us - it’s the biggest event in Scotland. Each year we have a lot of business that comes to Scotland. We deal with about 150 suppliers throughout the UK and throughout Scotland so it’s great to see everybody under the one roof in a short space of time. We see them-face-to face, which makes a huge difference, and also discover new things that we don’t know about.”

Kat Brogan, from Mercat Tours, said: “We’ve come to VisitScotland Connect - and previously VisitScotland Expo - for over a decade because we feel it’s so important to maintain relationships and find new relationships with our travel trade partners from all over the world. It’s mainly about future years so it’s looking at investing in relationships and the contracts which will be for 2025 2026 and onwards.”

Adam Civico, from Promote Shetland, said: “VisitScotland Connect is a great event for getting together, sitting down and meeting the operators, the buyers, who are interested in all of Scotland but are interested in coming to Shetland and finding out more about the destination. It’s really exciting just to be able to pick up people’s enthusiasm for Shetland as a destination - it’s brilliant!”

VisitScotland Connect will be held again on 9 and 10 April 2025, at the P&J Live.