The MICE market is increasingly turning to ‘second-tier destinations’ like Scotland

One of the world’s leading meetings and conferences researchers has said that Scotland has a ‘braggability’ factor that rival international destinations struggle to match.

Dr Rob Davidson, Managing Director of MICE Knowledge, believes Scotland has a strong and growing reputation on the worldwide meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions circuit.

Dr Davidson, who will present his annual Trends Watch report at the IBTM World meetings trade show in Barcelona this month, says: “One big advantage of Scotland is that it’s got novelty value. A lot of people already know London, Paris, Amsterdam and Berlin, and it’s harder and harder to get them excited about a prospect of a meeting or an incentive in those cities.

He added: “Scotland, however, is relatively new on the market and I think in particular we are seeing a huge rise in interest in what we call ‘second-tier destinations’. Those are not the capital cities or the largest cities but a bit off the beaten track, a bit different, places that have got what I would call ‘braggability’, in the sense that participants can go home and say, ‘I’ve just been to a conference in a small Scottish town on the banks of Loch Ness’. That’s got a lot of power at the moment.”

Dr Davidson, a Scot, has written six books on conferences and incentive travel and is Visiting Professor in six European universities, where he educates students on MICE management.

He says whilst Scotland has a “powerful brand” overseas, and in particular praised the work of VisitScotland’s dedicated conferences and meetings team, he said more could be done to encourage delegates to extend their trips and to build partner programmes.

He adds: “I think not only Scotland but convention bureaux in general should do a lot more to plant that idea in the delegates’ heads months and months before they actually make their booking, by working with the PCOs and the organisers to say, ‘We know you’ve got 5,000 architects coming but did you know this is going on the weekend before the conference?’

“That helps entice people to come with their partners and thus extend their trip, which we know they are much more likely to do when accompanied,” Dr Davidson said.

He added: “That does happen anyway but my own research looks at how we can stimulate that much more in advance. It’s a win-win for everybody: the hotels, restaurants, the tourism industry generally gains from that, but we do need to be more proactive.”