VisitScotland is seeking a venue in the north of Scotland to host next year’s Expo – described as the “premier tourism event of the year” and worth hundreds of thousands of pounds to the economy.
The event this year – the 40th anniversary of Expo – is taking place at Glasgow’s SEC Centre, but tourism bosses have made the decision to take the massive spectacle outwith the Central Belt over the next two years.
Potential bidders are being sought from across the north of Scotland, including Highland, Aberdeenshire, Moray, Aberdeen City, Dundee, Perth and Kinross, Angus, and Argyll and Bute.
James Mackenzie-Blackman, chief executive of Eden Court Theatre in Inverness, was very positive about attracting the event to the Highlands for the very first time.
— VisitScotland Expo (@VisitScotExpo) April 18, 2018
He said: “I think it is fantastic that the Expo could come north to a location such as us.
“Inverness, and the wider Highland region, has the huge potential to welcome visitors from across the country and around the world, especially following continued growth and more daily flights from Inverness Airport.
“If a successful bid was delivered for the region we would be on hand to provide a warm Highland welcome.”
Inverness economist Tony Mackay said: “It would be excellent news for the Highlands and Islands if Inverness bid for the Expo, and was successful.
“It is the premier tourism event of the year, with large numbers of exhibitors and delegates, so there would be substantial direct benefits from their local spending.
“Tourism is currently booming in the Highlands at the present time because the fall in the value of the pound after the Brexit vote has encouraged more overseas visitors to come to the region.”
Mr Mackay believes the Expo could generate £1.5m for the economy and claims Inverness has the capacity to cater for the massive event – with Eden Court Theatre being the focal point.
However, he fears the Highland capital will face strong competition from other areas, notably Aberdeen, which has previously hosted the Expo, and Dundee.
>> Keep up to date with the latest news with The P&J newsletter
A Highland Council spokeswoman said: “It is principally for venues to bid to host the Expo. Highland would support the principle of such a bid if one was to be put forward by a venue operator.”
Expo sees around 600 tour operators and travel agents from over 30 countries meet more than 300 Scottish tourism businesses.
The Expo has predominantly been Central Belt based, although has occasionally headed north to be hosted in Aberdeen.
It is the country’s biggest travel trade show. Visitors come from the USA, Japan, Brazil, Russia, the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Germany.
A VisitScotland spokeswoman said: “We are currently going through a tender process for the next two years, to use venues across Scotland that fit the necessary requirements for VisitScotland Expo.”