An inaugural virtual event pilot run by VisitScotland to link Glasgow tourism businesses with global tour operators and travel agents has been hailed a success by those who took part.

The Scotland Reconnect 2020 event, which took place at the end of November, saw a total of 264 buyers from 23 countries connecting online with 240 Scottish suppliers for business meetings aimed at booking and creating tour packages for future visitors. 16 of the suppliers were from Glasgow. 21 of the buyers were new to working with VisitScotland on a travel trade event of this kind.

Scotland Reconnect 2020 was also the first of its kind to be delivered by the national tourism organisation and also gave tour operators and travel agents the opportunity to rebook visits and tweak programmes that had had to be cancelled this year due to the Covid-19 outbreak.

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.

Buyers from the USA, Canada, Germany, France, Italy, Spain, the Netherlands, Scandinavia, Australia and Brazil all attended the virtual event, as well as London-based inbound operators representing the Japanese and Chinese markets.

In addition to facilitating more than 5,000 business meetings, there were also live webinars, round table discussions and breakout sessions and an online presentation hub. Virtual experiences also demonstrated what Scotland can offer buyers’ clients, and there were trad music sessions with Gary Innes from top trad band Manran, whisky tasting experiences with Glengoyne Distillery and The Scotch Whisky Experience, as well as storytelling with Mercat Tours.

Participants also heard from global tourism speakers and took part in round table discussions, as VisitScotland’s Head of Engagement Denise Hill met 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 looked ahead to 2021 and discussed what businesses need to consider when seeking to address current issues and challenges in global tourism.

VisitScotland’s Senior Tourism Insights Manager, Chris Greenwood, also ran sessions on global trends and Covid-time consumer behaviour. Responsible travel, a theme of growing importance among travelers around the globe, was also on the agenda, as was the promotion of initiatives including Scotland’s Year of Coasts and Waters 2020.

Jim Clarkson, Regional Leadership Director (west), VisitScotland said: “I am thrilled to announce that our inaugural Scotland Reconnect 2020 event was a great success, demonstrating both enthusiasm and an appetite to return to Glasgow as soon as it is deemed safe - and I hope all those who participated would echo that."

“It was encouraging to hear that despite this terrible year, so many buyers and suppliers had signed up to the event and were keen to continue their great relationships in the future."

“Scotland Reconnect 2020 has demonstrated that our country remains at the top of people’s must-visit destinations and Covid-19 has not changed that. All those elements that make a holiday in Scotland so unique for so many people still remain."

“This event has started us on the road to recovery as we look forward to the time when we can welcome international visitors back to our city.”

Susan Deighan, Director of City Marketing and External Relations, Glasgow Life said: “Scotland Reconnects gave 16 unique Glasgow tourism businesses the opportunity to connect with over 260 national and international travel trade buyers, encouraging them to consider Glasgow for the future. While businesses are unable to meet buyers face to face, this well attended virtual experience has kept Glasgow front of mind for those planning leisure visits to our city in the future.”

Anke Schoen, Head of Department GB & IRE at the German packager, Behringer-Touristik, said: “Scotland Reconnect worked very well for us. Of course, browsing a live event offers even more opportunity for inspiration, but as this was not possible this year, VisitScotland pulled together a very good alternative.”

Nick Landy, Supplier Relationship Manager at North American-based tour operator “Brendan Vacations”, said: “Scotland Reconnect has been a huge success for us at Brendan Vacations. The OnAir platform has facilitated an experience which has felt similar to a face to face event. The networking, storytelling sessions, music, and 'In conversation with' sessions have all enriched the event and helped us reconnect as an industry. My takeaway is that the recovery effort's success will depend on all of us collaborating to provide a competitive, safe, flexible and enjoyable experience. Having 2022 rates now will be key to saying yes to every enquiry and all possible capturing base business. We will be doing our bit to drive the message out there that Scotland is ready to welcome our guests back.”

Issued by: Andy Dewar | Regional Corporate Press Officer (west) | 

VisitScotland | M:07775542763 | E: [email protected]

 

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· VisitScotland is Scotland’s national tourism