Scotland’s incredible natural landscapes played host to the biggest cycling event in the world recently. From 3-13 August the world’s greatest riders tested their skills on the crags of Ben Nevis and the forests of Glentress in the UCI Cycling World Championships, and I was lucky enough to have a track-side view.

The championships were based in Glasgow and across Scotland, allowing organisers to draw on the rich sporting expertise and infrastructure of our country. While I was seconded from my day job to help out behind the scenes, I reflected on the similarities between business and sporting events and what each can learn from the other to amplify their impact.

A good sport
Scotland is a major hub for sporting events, with Glasgow named European Capital of Sport not once, but twice (2023 and 2003). In the last ten years, it’s hosted the 2014 Commonwealth Games, the 2015 World Gymnastics Championships, the first ever European Championships in 2018, and of course, UEFA Euro 2020 at Hampden Park, all attracting thousands of top-level athletes and spectators from around the world.

And that’s without mentioning a sport more usually associated with Scotland – golf. I believe destinations need to be bold when it comes to selling their strengths, whatever they may be. One of the reasons the Cycling Worlds came to Glasgow was its sporting pedigree and infrastructure, just as our pioneering life sciences research and innovative industries make Scotland a global hub for business events.

We need to lean into what we’re good at and show event organisers how we can help them create extraordinary events using those strengths. Events are so much richer when they use the natural resources and expertise of their host country, and the destination in turn benefits from an influx of knowledge and expertise too, creating economic and social advantages on the ground and creating a virtuous circle.

Future proof
The Cycling Worlds made a clear policy connection with health, wellbeing and the promotion of physical activity as its wider aim. Events such as the Cycling Worlds are powerful tools to encourage healthier behaviours and inspire people to try new things and, when properly followed through, can have far-reaching positive effects on the local community.

With the work I do with VisitScotland and PCMA, I believe that business events also have incredible potential to change lives for the better. Conferences and congresses debate big ideas and make decisions that save lives. By working collaboratively, such as with VisitScotland Business Events’ Transformation Protocol, event organisers can tap into the resources and expertise of the local community and unlock a raft of benefits for their event as well as delivering positive social and economic benefits on the local community for the future.

We’ve moved on from counting the number of coffees drunk or the number of bed nights booked, but there is perhaps more work to do in advocating for the role of business events. Major sporting events can shine a spotlight on a destination and attract enormous live and television audiences globally, and while business events may not be prime time viewing and lack the glamour of sporting events, their impact is no less important.