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Friday, November 04, 2011

Scotland Means Business, Part 1 by Robin McKelvie

As a travel writer and broadcaster I’ve been writing about my native Scotland for over a decade now and she still manages to constantly surprise me. We all know about Scotland’s bountiful whisky, golf and castles, but did you know too that this is a nation that boasts over 10% of Europe’s coastline, is home to over 800 islands, has been voted the best mountain biking destination on the planet and whose capital is blessed with a quintet of Michelin starred restaurants? Swirl in world class conference centres, an increasing array of four and five star hotel and resort options and some of the most imaginative and eclectic incentive opportunities you can find anywhere and the cocktail Scotland conjures up these days is MICE heaven.


Whether it’s your first time in Scotland or your fiftieth, whether you are a corporate buyer, a meetings organiser or a C&I journalist, this is a country with endless opportunities with something new around every corner. Just when you get to know your Aberdeen Angus from your Buccleuch beef you find out the Borders produce world-class lamb, Shetland offers arguably the finest mussels in the UK and that the oysters in Wester Ross come the size of baseballs and are mercifully a lot tastier. Just when you think you have got to know the capital of Edinburgh and the largest city of Glasgow, Scotland’s four other cities – Aberdeen, Dundee, Inverness and Stirling – have started to shine brighter than ever before as business tourism destinations. And that is not even mentioning glorious Perthshire or the world famous Highlands amongst a string of other destinations.

I’ve been writing about hotels, restaurants and business tourism facilities in Scotland for over a decade and I have witnessed first hand a sea change in recent years. Indeed Scotland has never been better geared to the needs of today’s sophisticated global business community and these efforts have been rewarded with business tourism now worth over £800m a year to the local economy. Business tourism is now big business in Scotland and there is a real commitment to it I see everywhere from the national tourist office down through DMCs and into the venues themselves.


This is nowhere more evident than in the hotels. Edinburgh and Glasgow today overflow with great MICE friendly places to stay. The capital boasts the landmark Balmoral, award winning Sheraton Grand, slick Radisson Blu on the Royal Mile, sexy Missoni, elegant George Hotel and funky Scotsman.

Glasgow is home to the stylish Blythswood Square, waterfront Mint Hotel, Erskine Bridge near the airport, super modern Radisson Blu, switched on Hilton Glasgow, the quiet West End decadence of the Hotel du Vin and the riverside Beardmore in Clydebank. Push further afield and there are the world-class resorts of Cameron House, Turnberry, Fairmont St Andrews and Gleneagles.


Aberdeen has its palatial Mercure Ardoe House, while Dundee has the smart modern Apex. Then there are other gems like the new Green Hotel Resort in Kinross and the biggest resort in the Highlands, the Macdonald in Aviemore.


On the ground Scotland is not short of Destination Management Companies either as well as other companies geared towards getting the most out of a business event. Andrew Burnet for example is an Edinburgh based DMC with over a decade of experience. Travel Scot World are also in Edinburgh with 41 years of experience and event managers Maximillion are based just outside the capital. Heritage Portfolio are experts at organising events with superb catering, while Prestige Scotland meanwhile caters for all sizes of event from intimate dinners to grand events.
Wilderness Scotland is also an excellent company that I’ve been on a number of trips with. Scotland’s only 5-star accredited activity provider offers myriad adrenaline pumping incentive trips, whether its mountain biking or sea kayaking.


This year is officially the Year of Active Scotland so there has never been a better time to get out into the great outdoors. The Highland Golf Links meanwhile can organise an event at any of their trio of stunning golf courses. The list could go on, but this is just a taster to whet your appetite.
Scotland also excels in terms of venues. How about an event staged within the ramparts of one of the world’s most famous castles? Done. Just get in touch with Historic Scotland who can book you into Edinburgh Castle. They, along with the National Trust for Scotland, have myriad historic venues well versed in staging unique events. Other dramatic stand alone venues include the Royal Yacht Britannia in Edinburgh (the Queen’s old luxury cruiser) or Scotland’s Versailles, Hopetoun House, in South Queensferry. Then there is the Festival Hub in the capital and Winton House, with its 250 acre grounds in East Lothian.


With so much competition, of course, these days Scotland also has to shout louder than ever before to showcase its manifest MICE charms. That is where Scotland Means Business comes in. This innovative and engaging bi-annual extravaganza is no dull conference or staid event. The ‘wow factor’ is a seriously overused phrase, but you really do get it here. You get to feel the passion of Scotland’s business community and the providers, as well as experience the country first hand during the event and with the flurry of fam trips afterwards.


I’ve been to a lot of MICE events around the world, but just love the open, welcoming, can do atmosphere at Scotland Means Business. The main event is the business equivalent of ‘speed dating’, a networking workshop where buyers get the chance to meet Scottish tourism business companies face to face. With meetings matched in advance, the standard 12 appointments often achieve more in 15 minutes than you could in weeks of emails and conference calls.


Scotland Means Business manages to genuinely mix business with pleasure, allowing delegates to actually get out and explore the country. The setting this time is ideal in Glasgow, home to Scotland’s widest range of MICE facilities including the truly dynamic Scottish Exhibition + Conference Centre. This already remarkable facility is currently in the process of adding the Scottish Hydro Arena, the largest indoor event space in Scotland. Glasgow brands itself as ‘Scotland with Style’ with a flurry of chic shops, elegant Georgian buildings and cutting edge museums wrapping themselves around the river that once gave the world its most famous ships, the Clyde.


Scotland Means Business for me is a world class event. It is when the cream of Scottish business and business tourism providers get together with the national tourist office and showcase what Scotland has to offer. I’ve had a good look at the programme and you are in for a real treat with this extravaganza both during the event and in the fam trips afterwards.  I’ll be back with another blog just before it all kicks off to let you know about the rich programme of events during Scotland Means Business and those great trips afterwards too. Until then, as we say here, slainte!


Robin McKelvie ( has been a travel writer, broadcaster and photographer full-time since 1997. He has travelled to and written about almost 100 countries, but his favourite is still his native Scotland. As well as articles for consumer, business and trade titles Robin is also the author of guidebooks on Scotland for Thomas Cook and National Geographic. He is also the Managing Editor of the Scottish travel website

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