‘Virtually’ a success!
An inaugural virtual event pilot run by VisitScotland to link Scottish 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. Twenty-one 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 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.
Photograph courtesy of The Scotch Whisky Experience
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-19 restrictions this year, new digital platforms like Reconnect have been developed.
Buyers from the USA, Canada, Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Holland, 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 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.
John Thurso, VisitScotland Chairman, 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 Scotland 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 shores.”
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.”
A representative from Tour Partner Group UK tweeted: “Thanks you VisitScotland for organising yet another successful trade event. Despite it being virtual - and no personal bar moments could be shared - we have had great meetings with clients and suppliers to talk about our beautiful Scotland. Connecting now to build for the future.”
Karin Gidlund, Travel Trade sales manager at Rabbie’s, said: “What a fantastic event VisitScotland organised - #Reconnect has been three great days of meetings, chatting to new and existing contacts, and interesting live panel discussions using the best virtual meeting platform I have experience so far this year. It’s been good to be back talking and business and to see so many familiar faces!”
Pietro Cecchini, Head of Business Development at The Scotch Whisky Experience, said: “What an amazing Scotland Reconnect 2020! Well done VisitScotland. We’re delighted to have hosted the closing event for our UK and international buyers with a virtual whisky masterclass from the glass vault of the world’s largest Scotch Whisky Collection, with Julie Trevisan Hunter, who is our marketing director and one of the world’s youngest female Masters of the Quaich.”
Loch Ness-based supplier Lisa Morrison, from Cobbs Group, said: “Scotland Reconnect is a fantastic portal and VisitScotland have done great getting this event together.”