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Those working in Britain’s meetings and events industry are confident that their destination will indeed remain an eventful sort of place, stating they fully expect to see a rebound while often now going the high-tech route to familiarize people with British attractions during these days of mostly non-travel.
VisitBritain held a webinar last Wednesday that saw several prominent British tourism officials declare they’re confident that the events trade — which like other travel industry sectors has struggled during the coronavirus pandemic — will bounce back.
“We’ll build it again and we’ll build it much stronger,” said Tracy Halliwell, director of tourism, conventions and major events at London & Partners, who said her city expects to see a “huge amount of activity” next year. Those who find themselves now unable to carry out planned London visits are “changing and adapting, rather than cancelling,” she continued.
But Neil Brownlee, head of business events at VisitScotland, in turn cautioned that he expects the British events industry will rebound but warned it may take some time before it does so in a forceful manner.
Developments outside Scotland will be crucial to the recovery of the Scottish events industry, he added.
Brownlee said there may be a growing appreciation for Scottish tourism attributes that most people haven’t been able to visit following the onset of coronavirus and subsequent restrictions on travel, citing the expression, “Absence makes the heart grow fonder.”
Brownlee suggested that he and his colleagues are promoting a part of the world that already has a strong following internationally: “We don’t aspire to be world-class. We are world-class.”
Scottish hotels and meetings venues have have had plenty of time to prepare for the restart of tourism, he continued.
Brownlee noted that those in the industry have been investing in their businesses during a pandemic that he said has been nothing less than “awful” for his industry.
Eimear Callaghan, business solution manager at Tourism Northern Ireland, said the incentives industry must be able to provide “tangible and meaningful experiences” to potential visitors as part of a recovery.
Callaghan acknowledged that it will be “very challenging in the short term” for her industry.
Brownlee said Scottish hotels and meetings venues have had weeks to prepare for the restart of travel and he’s confident they’re ready to again welcome guests.
Webinar listeners were told that among investments being made in the events sectors are ones revolving around new technology, such as thermal imaging, which can be used to detect high temperatures, a possible indicator of coronavirus.
The growing use of enhanced technology by British tourist boards to get their message out is underscored by by a series of virtual experiences tourism authorities have announced, with Halliwell noting London’s tourist trade has been offering the likes of virtual VIP tours of museums and galleries during the past few months.
Coronavirus has forced many to work from home but Brownlee expects many will be eager to do business in person when travel restrictions are lifted: “The ultimate courtesy is being face to face to close the deal.”
Halliwell said London’s meetings industry is “heavily reliant” on hosting visitors from elsewhere and it’s crucial for the trade that gateways to the city are open.
She also noted the past few months have generated feel-good stories, such as hotels inviting homeless people to stay in their properties and cab drivers taking them to hospitals for free.
Top images courtesy: Nadir Khan & Royce Mackin/ VisitBritain.
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