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Scotland hosts almost a third of association meetings in UK

Scotland’s meetings industry leaders were in celebratory mood after the latest ICCA rankings revealed that the country accounted for almost a third (31%) of the association events held in the UK in 2019.

Scotland hosted 143 international rotating association events that met ICCA’s criteria, a 2.5 per cent increase in the number taking place in the country compared with the previous year.

Glasgow and Edinburgh placed higher in the rankings than Melbourne, Vancouver and New York.

The results follow on the findings from VisitScotland Business Events’ first annual Scottish Associations Survey, covering April 2018 – March 2019, which revealed that 425,600 delegate days were spent in Scotland throughout the period, with international association events accounting for 67 per cent of those days. In this period association events and conferences contributed more than £206m to the Scottish economy, with repeat visits and extended stays contributing a further £11m.

The city of Edinburgh (position 31) was the second most popular UK destination in the rankings after London having hosted 77 association events in 2019.

The University of Edinburgh Business School hosted the 35th European Group for Organisational Studies Colloquium in July 2019, welcoming more than 2,000 delegates from across Europe. The three-day event, the associations largest, included an extensive education programme with a keynote session from former UK Chancellor of the Exchequer Alistair Darling. The event also utilised nearby Royal College of Surgeons and provided £2.5m in economic benefit.

Gordon Dow, Account Development Manager, Edinburgh First, part of the University of Edinburgh said: “We are delighted to see to see Edinburgh retain its position as the top city in Scotland for association meetings but also listed as the second most popular in the UK after London.  Whilst 2020 has been testing and uncertain for many of us we are confident that Edinburgh can rebuild and continue to attract these fantastic events, which contribute to the wider Scottish economy.”

Other Scottish cities that made the rankings include Glasgow which climbed six places in the rankings to position 41, hosting a total of 59 association events in 2019. This year, Glasgow was scheduled to host the prestigious 2020 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) at the Scottish Event Campus, which has now been postponed due to the COVID-19 outbreak.

The city of Aberdeen, also placed in the ICCA rankings at position 377, hosting a total of six association events in 2019. Last August Aberdeen celebrated the opening of its newest event complex, P&J Live, which can host up to 5,000 delegates.

Rory Archibald, Associations & Sectors, VisitScotland Business Events said: “Looking at the year ahead, we know things are still uncertain and that it will take time to rebuild, but I can say with complete confidence that Scotland has the resolve to continue leading the global Business Events community and a firm resolve to return to the success of recent years. VisitScotland Business Events and our partners will be ready to welcome back our friends and colleagues from across the world to Scotland as soon as we are able to meet face to face again.”

The full results of the VisitScotland Annual Association Survey can be downloaded here.