‘Scotland has a wide range of venues with a long track record of holding events of every type and size. It can offer a change of culture with optimum accessibility and so should always be on the list of possibles when investigating a destination’, says Neil Brownlee, Head of Business Tourism, VisitScotland.Neil Brownlee illustrates the accessibility of Scotland from south of the border by pointing out that VisitScotland takes groups on site inspections and fam trips to Glasgow or Edinburgh or Inverness ‘and we can be there and back in the day’.
He emphasises that the range of venues is unlimited, that the smallest and the biggest events are welcome and that although, prices vary from venue to venue and location to location ‘Scotland always offers value for money’.
He is of the opinion that organisers may not update themselves about Scotland often enough. ‘We are constantly developing with new facilities and new ideas, so people should always take the trouble to investigate Scotland’s current situation before making a decision on a destination.’
Golf has always been a predominant consideration in Scotland, but it is not by any means the only one. As Neil points out, Scotland has grown rapidly as a specialist in the sectors of life sciences, medicine, energy, bio-energy and finance – and exhibitions and conventions relating to these have seen a rapid increase in recent years.
Riverside Museum adds to Glasgow’s great new venues
Glasgow Harbour is a whole district of Glasgow that is being regenerated to fulfil a new role now that its former role has become outdated. Partick, formerly an important centre for shipbuilding and import-export trade, is now buzzing with developers constructing residential estates and shopping facilities. Pride of place, however, is being given to the brand new Riverside Museum that will be opening shortly.
On what was the A&J Inglis shipyard on the Clyde the Riverside Museum will be yet another iconic landmark of which Glasgow can be proud. With an investment of £74m, it will be the new home of the Glasgow Museum of Transport, but also much more than that. Over one million visitors a year are predicted to come to the very accessible new location for hundreds of transport and technological exhibits, many newly acquired for the new site and many previously lying unseen due to lack of space. One new exhibit will be a huge steam locomotive, a goodwill gift from Spoornet, the South African railway company.
The river will be one of the forms of access that delegates will be able to use, adding to the whole experience when attending an event.
A Grand Central transformation
What was the historic centre city landmark, the Central Hotel, has now re-blossomed under the name Grand Central Hotel. The group Principal Hayley has invested £20m in its total refurbishment and now presents it as a 4-star superior conference and banqueting venue, as well as a highly comfortable and convenient base for a weekend incentive.
There are now 21 flexible event rooms, the largest able to seat up to 400.
Scottish National Arena
Already making a stir amongst MICE specialists is the construction of The Scottish National Arena that will become a neighbour to SECC in Glasgow and should take its place amongst the finest in Europe. Costing about £50m, it will be able to seat an audience of 12,500. Its flexibility for different kinds of entertainments and events will be achieved by a mix of fixed, tiered and demountable seating and a special use of curtaining to suit the needs of each occasion, according to the number of delegates.
Coinciding with its 25th anniversary, the Sheraton Edinburgh has completed a multi-millionpound bedroom refurbishment.
The 269 guestrooms have been renovated not only with comfort and convenience in mind, but also to make sure they are suited to the needs of business executives. Special attention has also been paid to make the new bathrooms particularly relaxing.
Park Inn Aberdeen, in the city centre, gives access to 52 golf courses
The newly opened Park Inn Aberdeen has 185 rooms overlooking either the harbour or the city centre. The ground floor houses eight modern meeting rooms that can seat up to 200 delegates.
The airport is less than seven miles away and exit from the city is rapid, so that guests can choose from 52 golf courses for a day’s play.
The resort area of Turnberry on Scotland’s beautiful west coast has a cluster of news of its own. The luxury hotel and golf resort has recently completed a multi-million pound renovation programme that has remodelled its public spaces and 46 of its 192 guest rooms. Its Deluxe Ocean View rooms are now a visitor attraction in themselves, with new fabrics, new colour schemes and wooden flooring and with picture windows that invite guests to look out over the sea, the nearby islands and the renowned golf courses. In Alloway, Ayrshire, an investment of £21m has created Robert Burns Birthplace Museum. Combined with Burns Cottage and The Pavilion, these adjacent sites are available as venues for events for up to 60 delegates in unique surroundings.
To be completed shortly is a £12m project at the impressive Stirling Castle. Six ground-floor apartments have been fitted out and furnished to give visitors the feeling of walking into the royal court in the mid-16th century.
Years of research have been carried out by specialist scholars to ensure that the four-poster beds, heraldic decorations on the walls and ceilings and every other detail are as authentic as possible. Attendants, dressed in character of the time, will be guards and ladies-in-waiting and will be able to tell visitors about life in those early days.
Hilton’s new look in Scotland
Calum Ross, Area GM, Hilton Worldwide, Central Scotland, says that the company has invested in a new concept in its properties in Strathclyde and Edinburgh Airport. ‘We wanted to utilise all the f&b areas whilst providing productive business spaces for our business guests. We see it as vital in the current market to keep investing and adapting to meet the demands of our guests’.
Each of the two hotels has had £400,000 spent on transforming the traditional ground floor f&b spaces into a single executive lounge. They are now relaxing but fitted with easy laptop plug in and high-speed wireless, pop up screens, Bluetooth and mobile charging stations. ‘They are conducive’, says Calum, ‘to being private or working in small groups.’
The Hilton Edinburgh Grosvenor has had a £1.3m refurbishment of its bedrooms and public and meeting spaces. There is also a new steel and glass reception area.
VisitScotland has a sequence of themes stretching into the future that might lend themselves to related themes for incentives and events. They include: Year of Active Scotland (2011); Year of Creative Scotland (2012); Year of Sustainable Scotland (2013); Year of Homecoming to Scotland (2014). And, of course, Glasgow will be the venue for the Commonwealth Games in 2014.