The recent Summer Olympics competitions, the film “Brave,” Queen Elizabeth II’s Diamond Jubilee and the 2014 Ryder Cup competition are bringing a great deal of attention to the many attractions Scotland has to offer, but the northern U.K. nation also is flexing its muscle as a tradeshows and exhibitions destination.
“We have $3.2 billion invested in venues and new facilities, such as the Hydro Arena and the E.I.C.C. (Edinburgh International Conference Centre),”said Richard Knight, marketing manager, VisitScotland. “We are doing wonderfully. Scotland is one of only three countries that did not see a dip in tourism during the recession.”
A “Winning Years” marketing strategy by VisitScotland aims to boost tourism to Scotland by 50
percent by 2015 with a great deal of help from many large, international events in addition to domestic tourism promotions, such as the 2014 “homecoming” beckoning all people of Scottish descent to return to the land of the Scots no matter where they reside now.
“Our business numbers are going up,” said Knight, adding that numbers should continue improving with many international events slated. “We have the Commonwealth Games, the British Open and the homecoming for all Scots in 2014. We are calling on all people of Scottish descent to come back home for a visit.”
While there are many international events slated in the next couple years, as the birthplace of golf, Scotland’s hundreds of courses and its rich history of distilling Scotch whisky are strong lures for overseas travelers. But the nation’s history and natural attractions also draw a great deal of visitors each year.
“We have 556 golf courses, but not everyone plays golf,” Knight said, adding that there is a lot more for people to do. “It could be the whisky, the history, the Highlands or the lochs. A lot of people come to learn about our history. Scotland developed surgery, Dolly the sheep and pharmaceuticals. We have a lot to offer.”
And Scotland has several suitable facilities for putting on exhibitions, tradeshows, conventions, meetings and other events, including convention centers in Aberdeen, Dundee, Edinburgh and Glasgow.
The Aberdeen Exhibition and Conference Centre has hosted events for the past 25 years and annually averages more than 300,000 visitors. Among the about 300 events held at the center every year is the biennial Offshore Europe energy show, which is one of the largest of its kind anywhere. The Offshore Europe show in 2011 occupied more than 141,000 square feet of space among 1,800 exhibitors and handled over 48,000 visitors.
The Aberdeen site has its own in-house teams to provide various show services, including catering, audio-visual, Internet technology, exhibition and event-management services, among others. The facility’s food services won a prestigious Healthy Living Award, which annually recognizes the catering services in Scotland providing balanced, healthful meals.
In Dundee, the West Park Conference and Events Centre offers more than 200 suites and a 300-seat auditorium and Victorian mansion with 15 rooms for meetings and events. Rail lines and the local airport are five minutes from the conference center, which provides first-class food and catering services for meetings and events and uses locally grown foods as much as possible when creating menus.
The EICC first opened in 1995 and recently completed a more than 6,000-square-foot addition called the Lennox Suite. The center is owned by the City of Edinburgh Council and operates as an independent business entity that has hosted nearly one million visitors to more than 2,600 events since its 1995 opening. For the third time, the facility won recognition as the “Best U.K. Conference Center” by the Meetings & Incentive Travel magazine.
The Scottish Exhibition & Conference Centre is located on the north bank of the River Clyde in Glasgow and has five main exhibition halls and more than 73,000 square feet of combined, flexible exhibition space among them. The halls range in size from just more than 2,500 square feet to over 33,000 square feet and can be converted for special events’ needs.
Soon to open on the Scottish Exhibition and Conference Centre’s grounds is the “Scottish
Hydro Arena,” which is a state-of-the-art entertainment and sports venue whose construction is almost completed and will seat 12,000. The Hydro is slated to open in September 2013. Construction began in 2009, and the energy firm Scottish Hydro has pledged nearly $2.5 million per year for the first 10 years to the facility to be used toward operational and maintenance costs. The netball and gymnastics events of the 2014 Commonwealth Games are scheduled to be played in the Hydro.
So when weighing options for tradeshows, conventions, meetings or other events in the U.K. or northern Europe, event planners would do well to consider Scotland and its many options.