BTN Europe presents an overview of business travel and MICE predictions for this year
Virtual Event - 25-26 May 2021
Virtual Event - 9 June 2021
Thursday 9th September, JW Marriott Grosvenor House
Huge opportunities from exchange rateScotland business tourist leaders are eyeing the United States as a potential source of huge business.With the value of the pound against the dollar 30% down in the last year, the country believes it can attract many more conferences and events from America in the coming years.Lindsay Brown, VisitScotland Business Travel's marketing manager for the UK, said: "There are a lot of North American states which are not aware of the current exchange rate."There has been a lot of hype but they are not aware that the pound has fallen 30% against the dollar."This is a huge area for us to get into, an area where we have to get out and communicate."Scotland is already a popular destination for events from North America. The States are by far the highest proportion of overseas business visitors to Scotland, accounting for 28% of its business travel income. The Germans are second but a long way back, responsible for just 6% of the spend.Business tourism is worth £911m a year for Scotland, 22% of its income from visitors. The bulk, 77% is spent by visitors from other parts of the UK, notably the constant flow of bankers in and out of Edinburgh.But the country also attracts business tourists from around the world, with Edinburgh and Glasgow ranked, respectively, 27th and 40th by the International Congress and Convention Association among the cities attracting the most events. In the UK, only London is higher.But as Ms Brown is quick to point out these are tough times. Like most others in the industry, they are seeing cuts in spend by companies and another accurate indicator of the MICE industry's lack of health is that lead in times are "considerably shorter."Taking this to the extreme, one company recently tried to arrange a national roadshow around the country at three weeks notice.Ms Brown said a feature of the cuts were that companies were anxious to avoid being seen as "frivolous" and more keen to be seen as being careful with their budget. This meant fewer five-star hotel bookings and more for mid-market properties, cuts in catering and shorter trips. One example was that business bookings were down at one of Edinburgh's smartest hotels, the Balmoral, part of the Rocco Forte Collection, although leisure bookings remain robust."They are not taking large chunks out of their catering budget but they are cutting the added extras. We are also seeing an increase in the number of one day conferences which means delegates don't have to spend an overnight fee," Ms Brown said.Another sign of the harsher climate, which other industry figures also report, is that there is an increase in inquiries about venues but the conversion level is lower. In other words, corporates are shopping around much more to find the venue which will give them most value."People are looking for the same quality of venue and the same level of service but they also want to save money," Ms Brown said."So we need to keep up an awareness of Scotland as we are competing with 200 other destinations. There are an awful lot of people looking for the same business. We simply have to focus on value for money."But the business tourist is worth attracting. VisitScotland calculates he or she spends 2.5 times as much per night as a leisure visitor while the overseas business tourist spends 1.75 more than a UK business visitor.Many might also argue that Scotland has a definite advantage in this tight market. A relatively small country, richly steeped in history, boasting some of the world's best landscapes and locally produced food and drink of the highest, like seafood, Aberdeen Angus beef and a vast selection of malt whiskies.It is a country, Ms Brown said, which could offer a variety of venues, from the international convention centres which can cater for thousands of delegates that Glasgow, Edinburgh and Aberdeen possess to the unique and exclusive venues which corporates often need for team building breaks.An example of the latter was the 15th century castle about 15 minutes from Edinburgh which now had free Wi-Fi in each room. This "exclusive" market seems to be holding up as there was recently an inquiry from a company looking for such a venue for 200-250 people.But generally it is a market where everyone from the official tourist bodies to the hotels and the destination management companies (DMCs) has to be on their toes. "The DMCs are realising this and responding to what their clients need," she said. "But our bookings for 2009 and 2010 are still coming in and we have also had a few for 2014. People still have to spend to keep their businesses going."Companies have become a bit more cautious and I do not see the end of that just now. But I am optimistic that things will come round. We just have to keep Scotland at the top of people's minds," she said.www.scotland.org/about/innovation-and-creativity/features/business/trave...