SCOTTISH tourism’s annual jamboree to market its charms on an international stage attracted more than 1000 travel agents and tour operators from around the world.
VisitScotland Expo is said to have boosted the north-east economy to the tune of £1.7m as hundreds of ‘buyers’, including tour operators, travel agents and the world’s travel press, descended on the Aberdeen Exhibition and Conference Centre on April 13 and 14.
Around 250 businesses from every part of Scotland, including hotels, restaurants and leading visitor attractions, were in Aberdeen to help play their part in boosting Scotland’s image on an international stage.
Visitors to the Granite City’s premier exhibition space were treated to the ‘monster’ sight of scale models of sculptor Andy Scott’s giant kelpies, the ‘fully-grown’ versions of which are destined for Falkirk’s ambitious Helix Project.
There was even a reported sighting of Nessie, who had strayed from her habitual stomping ground further north in Loch Ness, especially for the occasion.
Over 500 buyers from 35 countries – including other parts of the UK – were taken on familiarisation trips around Scotland to sample the finest food and drink on offer.
Visitors also took part in activities such as mountain biking, loch cruising and even land yachting.
This year, around 50 new exhibitors took part for the first time. Organiser VisitScotland said the average potential value to a business as a result of attending Expo as an exhibitor is £28,000, with some businesses “quoting values as high as £100,000”.
Mike Cantlay, chairman of VisitScotland, said: “Expo 2011 proved a fantastic showcase for the whole of Scotland .
“Every exhibitor I spoke to while in Aberdeen said that they made excellent contacts from both the international and UK markets.
“It was also important that visitors from overseas and from all over the UK were made to feel welcome in Scotland.”
Aberdeen City and Shire won the award for the Most Effective Stand for Doing Business, Macdonald Hotels and Resorts took the Most Effective People award and the Old Course Hotel at St Andrews walked away with the gong for the Most Effective Stand.
Blown Away Experiences, a St Andrews-based mobile outdoor-experience company which specialises in beach activities, such as land yachting, won the award for the Most Effective First Time Exhibitor.
According to VisitScotland, tourism employs 270,000 people in Scotland in 20,000 diverse businesses and supports around 10% of employment.
The industry generates a reported £11bn revenue annually (including day visits).
(above: Mike Cantlay with Fiona Gray of the Old Course Hotel, whose stand won an award.)