“About 55 million world citizens declare at least some lineage to Scotland,” brags Richard Knight, Director of Marketing, The Americas Business Events, at Visit Scotland. So, when attendees arrive in Edinburgh, Glasgow or one of the country’s other destinations, you could say it’s a homecoming for many.
“There’s an emotional link to this country,” says Knight.
Easier to trace than ancient lineage, though, is Scotland’s role in iconic innovations throughout history. Scotland, birthplace of economist Adam Smith (there’s a statue in Edinburgh as proof) and Dolly, the cloned sheep, is a home of discovery.
Capitalizing on that rich aspect of the historic country’s past, Visit Scotland launched a fittingly innovative marketing campaign late last year. “Scotland: Where ideas become legend” is a digital-only push—virtually unheard of in the MICE market—meant to spark the idea among planners in key industry sectors that their organizations, too, can develop big ideas in Scotland.
“This is a big step for us,” acknowledges Knight. “Our main objective is to make sure Scotland top of mind and at least in running to win business.”
Among the most coveted types of conferences are those in finance, life sciences, medical/pharmaceutical and manufacturing industries.
It’s estimated that business events generate $12 billion for Scotland’s economy.
Beyond the digital-only nature of the push, what also makes it unusual that it’s countrywide. Edinburgh isn’t competing with Glasgow, which isn’t competing with Dundee. The reality is that once a group taps Scotland for an event, the country’s relatively small size makes all of the major destinations and attractions fair game for an itinerary.
“It’s not impossible to do a conference in Edinburgh and also cross off your major bucket list item by golfing at St. Andrews,” says Knight, referring to the course known as the birthplace of golf.
Golf, lavish country-sides and legendary castles have always made Scotland a favorite for incentive programs. But those same attributes, Knight argues, benefit conferences and meetings as well.
“You can go to a conference anywhere in the world, but it’s important you provide people with an opportunity to take a deep breath and look at the surroundings and feel a bit special to be there,” he says.
New flights through Norwegian and United Airlines have enhanced the country’s airlift. Also, a strong U.S. dollar makes the trip to Scotland more affordable than several years ago.
To reinforce that the history will play a huge factor in the future, Visit Scotland also announced that 2018 is its “year of the young people.” The tourist organization is aiming to appeal to millennials’ preference of authentic, one-of-a-kind experiences. If it does its job right, younger generations of meeting attendees will add extra days before or after their business event.
“There are only so many times you can lie on a beach in the Caribbean,” says Knight. Young people are looking for more something educational and dare I say culturally enriching.”