Scottish venues: Take the high road

Mark Hillsdon previews events north of the border in the next six months and finds a thriving sector getting ready to welcome thousands of visitors.


The Aberdeen Exhibition and Conference Centre (AECC) is the venue for VisitScotland Expo 2005 on 13-14 April. Scotland's only flagship business-to-business show for the travel trade offers a chance to market products and services to buyers from around the globe.

Until last year the event had been held in Glasgow but, says the AECC's director of sales, Brian Horsburgh: "We argued that it was high time the event was moved around Scotland to showcase a bit more of the country."

Up to 1,500 buyers are expected to attend the event, which will feature more than 200 stands in the 7,300sqm main hall.

In a busy month for Glasgow's Scottish Exhibition and Conference Centre (SECC), about 12,000 buyers and more than 350 exhibitors are expected at the Scottish Hotel, Catering and Licensed Trade Exhibition. Scotland's biggest hospitality event runs from 25-28 April alongside Wine Scotland 2005, which is aimed exclusively at wine and spirit buyers.

The second Country Living Magazine Spring Fair will take place at The Royal Highland Centre in Edinburgh from 14-17 April. Organisers are hoping for around 11,000 visitors to the show, which attracts more than 250 exhibitors selling crafts, garden and home accessories, jewellery and clothing.

Perth Racecourse's new £2m Grandstand opens on 21 April with an annual gala dinner for 180 trainers, racing professionals, jockeys and the racing press. The venue can seat up to 300 and incorporates ground floor exhibition space.

The Tayside Business Awards 2005, which recognise the achievements of regional businesses, will be at the Dundee Hilton on 22 April. The hotel can seat 350 banquet-style.


EuroMedLab, the 16th European Congress of Clinical Chemistry and Laboratory Medicine, comes to the SECC from 8-12 May. This biennial event has been staged in Prague (2001) and Barcelona (2003) and combines a congress with an exhibition in the centre's largest space, the 2,300sqm Hall 4. Its organisers, Glasgow-based Meeting Makers, expect more than 3,000 delegates.

From 19-21 May, the British Dental Conference and Exhibition will take place at the SECC with more than 3,000 delegates visiting up to 100 stands in Hall 5 (1,400sqm). The event will also feature a number of exhibition hall seminars.

From 21-22 May, the SECC will stage the Scottish Homebuilding & Renovating Show, offering visitors a chance to meet some of Scotland's leading self-build experts and source all the products and services needed to build a dream home. The show will feature at least 150 exhibitors and a unique seminar session covering self-build and renovation.

All Energy Opportunities will be at the AECC from 25-26 May and will showcase the latest developments in renewable energy technology. Making use of the centre's largest hall (7,300sqm), it will run alongside the five-day World Renewable Energy Congress.

A gala dinner for over 500 guests in the Glasgow Moat House's 600sqm Argyle Suite on 27 May will mark the Scottish Design Awards 2005, celebrating the design work of Scottish-based companies. This will be the second year in a row that the awards have been held at the hotel, and with the new Scottish Parliament likely to make the shortlist, organisers are expecting more media attention than usual.

"We chose the Moat House because of its size and location," explains Emma Nielson from organisers the Carnyx Group. "And because it's by the River Clyde, the water helps make it a great setting for an evening event in May."


Edinburgh's Royal Highland Centre is gearing up for a hectic month in June. Gardening Scotland will take place from 3-5 June, attracting an estimated 40,000-plus visitors - but the real challenge will come at the annual Royal Highland Show, which traditionally draws 150,000 and this year runs from 23-26 June. The Ideal Home Roadshow and the Beauty, Health & Lifestyle Roadshow will also be on site during the event.

Elsewhere, the first Ayrshire Motor Show will be held within the grounds of the Loudoun Castle Estate in East Ayrshire on 18-19 June. The estate covers more than 1,200 acres and has its own theme park. The show is expected to double the park's daily visitor numbers to around 10,000 and will include live entertainment as well as exhibits from car dealers and manufacturers.

"It's going to cover the full range of what the motor industry has to offer," says events and catering manager John Morton. "We're trying to target the professionals as well as private owners and people who have come predominantly to visit the theme park."

The inaugural Man Booker International Prize will come to the Great Hall at Edinburgh's Royal Museum on 27 June. With an international emphasis that distinguishes it from the annual Man Booker Prize, the award is due to be presented every second year.

Rebecca Salt, associate director at the event's organiser, Colman Getty, says: "The whole event is tied into Edinburgh being the first ever 'city of literature', a Unesco title it received last October."

The winner will be announced at a news conference in London in early June, and will then be invited to Edinburgh to accept the award at a reception and dinner for 250 invited guests.

Salt adds: "We went to see a lot of venues but most that were of a similar size to the Great Hall are too modern. We wanted to reflect the heritage of Scotland as well as having somewhere that looks great. The Royal Museum is a very slick operation."

The hall covers 1,213sqm, with banqueting facilities for 650.


The Grampian Transport Museum at Alford, Aberdeenshire, will be hosting two regular events in July, each of which attracts in excess of 5,000 visitors.

On 3 July the Grampian Truck Show rumbles into town - followed on 24 July by Motorvation: Classic Car Cavalcade. Both make use of the museum's purpose-built 400m road circuit while the rest of the 15-acre site is given over to trade stands and displays. There is also a permanent grandstand that can seat 300.

Dundas Castle near Edinburgh remains one of Scotland's most exclusive venues and has a number of corporate dinners booked in the forthcoming months. Head of sales Lucy Scillitoe says: "They range from a private dinner for nine people in the Stag Chamber, with an overnight stay, to a gala drinks reception for 200 people, which will be hosted in the castle and followed by dinner in the Pavilion."

She adds: "Clients choose Dundas Castle for its uniqueness, the fact that it can be hired exclusively and its close proximity to Edinburgh airport." The Pavilion can seat up 250 people, the Great Hall 80 and the Stag Chamber 30.


The Caledonian Mini Club will hold its annual rally at Perth Racecourse, incorporating trade stands and family entertainment, on 13-14 August.

The racecourse's marketing manager, Julie Manners, says: "It's gone crazy over the last couple of years and we get about 1,500 people now over the weekend. But we're used to accommodating about 12,000 people on a race day, so we can easily cope.

"We've got 32 acres of beautiful land in the grounds of Scone Palace, which is one reason why they keep coming back - there's no shortage of space."

After hosting Truckfest Scotland on 6-7 August, the Royal Highland Centre will ease down a gear on 27-28 August for the Scottish Kennel Club Dog Show.

"It's the Scottish equivalent of Crufts," says Grant Knight, a director at the centre, which has staged the event for the last 12 years and regularly draws in over 12,000 visitors.

"I like to think we're relatively unique because we've got 18,000sqm of exhibitions hall and 110 acres of showground," adds Knight. "It's the variety of space that we have that attracts these kind of events."


Offshore Europe 2005, a global oil and gas exhibition and conference, will take place at the AECC from 6-9 September. More than 26,000 key industry personnel are expected at the four-day event, with more than 1,400 exhibitors from 34 countries. At last year's show, business deals worth over $325m (£169m) were announced.

"It's very much about doing business but like a lot of exhibitions, it's also about showcasing new services and new technologies," says the venue's Brian Horsburgh. In fact the AECC was built specifically to provide a permanent venue for the show, which been taking place every two years since 1985.

From 13-14 September, the 8,000sqm Highland Hall at the Royal Highland Centre will play host to the Scottish Convenience Retailing Show (SCRS 2005).

On a smaller scale, the National Business Awards for Scotland return to the Hilton Glasgow on 8 September. "It is one of the largest venues in Scotland suitable for an awards ceremony," says Dominique Holmes, event manager at organiser Quest Media.

Following a gala dinner in the hotel's 882sqm ballroom, there will be a presentation ceremony and live entertainment for the event's 600 guests.

By contrast, more than 50,000 people are expected to attend the RAF Leuchars Airshow at Britain's most northerly fighter station on September 10. At least 300 exhibitors will be selling a mixture of aircraft memorabilia and crafts at the base near St Andrews, taking advantage of over 750,000sqm of largely outdoor exhibition space.

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