VisitScotland Business Events conduct an annual Scottish Association Survey to examine the incredible benefits and opportunity of hosting association events in Scotland. In conjunction with Scotland's convention bureaus, conferences centres, venues, universities and hotels; the survey creates a clear picture of value that the association sector brings to Scotland and highlights any emerging trends.

To gather the data for this survey VisitScotland has asked the business events industry in Scotland, to share your conference data with us. The event information we received was carefully checked for dates and accuracy, and any events that were not classified as being an association event were removed. Events had to be international, and not normally take place in Scotland, therefore attracting delegates into Scotland. A Scottish association event would not be included.

The first survey was conducted in 2018/19 and following the success of the survey, it was also carried out in 2019/20 and 2020/21. 2020/21 survey results included events that were planned however were cancelled due to Covid-19. We felt it was important to measure the value and volume of events lost to the sector due to the pandemic. It is important as an industry to understand the depth of the impact of Covid-19, but it is also important that the loss that has been recorded is published and communicated to government.

2018/2019 Survey Results
  • In 2018/19 Scotland hosted an incredible 447 association events.
  • In total up to 130,000 delegates came to Scotland, with 55,000 originating in the UK and an amazing 75,000 delegates travelling from Europe and beyond. Combined, an incredible 425,000 delegate days were spent in Scotland.
  • The average association event lasts for 2.6 days – 58% of events lasted for either 2 or 3 days.
  • 19% of events last for only one day, and the longest association event lasted for 8 days!
  • 38% of all association events in Scotland are in the Life Sciences, but, those 38% of events account for 56% of all delegate days.
  • ICT and Data events account for 8% of delegate days.
  • The Social Sciences account for 7% of delegate days.
  • Mathematics and Physics, Education, Finance and Professional Studies all account for approximately 4% of delegate days each.

Using industry accepted Delegate Expenditure Benefit (DEB) multipliers, adjusted to 2018 prices in line with Scottish Government inflation indexes, the VisitScotland Insights team has been able to calculate for the first time a potential value for the association sector in Scotland.

  • The total direct expenditure of association conferences in 2018/19 in Scotland was £206m.
  • Primary VisitScotland research has revealed that roughly 4 in every 10 delegates will extend their stay for on average 3 days in Scotland. These extenders contribute an additional £5.6m.
  • Further VisitScotland research shows that 9 in 10 delegates would return to Scotland in the future, with the potential value of these repeat visits totalling £5.5m.
  • Combined, the total direct gross impact is £217m to Scotland’s economy.

These figures are a powerful and timely reminder of the enormous, positive impact association conferences can have for a destination. 2018/19 was an excellent year for Scotland and the Scottish Association Survey has provided us all with a new level of understanding and insight into the value and size of association events.

Read here the full Scottish Association Survey 2018/19 report.

2019/20 Survey Results
  • In 2019/20 Scotland hosted an incredible 330 association events.
  • In total up to 121,000 delegates came to Scotland, translating into an incredible 412,000 delegate days spent in Scotland.
  • Life Science events accounted for 42% of delegate days - down 13%
  • ICT and Data events account for 10% of delegate days - up 2%
  • The Social Sciences account for 11% of delegate days - up 4%
  • The total net additional value of association conferences in 2019/20 in Scotland was £250m.
  • Primary VisitScotland research has revealed that roughly 4 in every 10 delegates will extend their stay for on average 3 days in Scotland. These extenders contribute an additional £5.1m.
  • Further VisitScotland research shows that 9 in 10 delegates would return to Scotland in the future, with the potential value of these repeat visits totalling £6.8m.
2020/21 Survey Results

It is important to remember that all results for 2020/21 describe value that was lost due to Covid-19.

  • In 2020/21 Scotland would have hosted 271 association events.
  • 142,000 delegates were projected to come to Scotland, translating into an incredible 555,000 delegate days spent in Scotland - up 35% on 2019/20
  • Life Science events accounted for 50% of delegate days - up 8%
  • ICT and Data events account for 10% of delegate days - no change
  • The Social Sciences account for 3% of delegate days - down 8%
  • The total net additional value of association conferences in 2020/21 in Scotland was projected to be a massive £330m - an increase of 33% on 2019/20
  • Primary VisitScotland research has revealed that roughly 4 in every 10 delegates will extend their stay for on average 3 days in Scotland. These extenders would have contributed an additional £6.6m.
  • Further VisitScotland research shows that 9 in 10 delegates would have returned to Scotland in the future, with the potential value of these repeat visits totalling £8.3m.

2020/21 was set to be a record year for the Scottish association sector, with huge numbers of delegates expected to travel to events, creating a huge economic impact for all related supply chain businesses. While some events will move dates and come to Scotland in the future, this loss is substantial.

These figures are a timely reminder of the enormous, positive impact association conferences can have for a destination. In challenging times, now more than ever the ability of associations to cross borders and build bridges is vital to our continued prosperity, peace, and growth.

Read here the full 2019/20 - 2020/21 Scottish Association Survey report.

For any further information on the Scottish Association Survey please contact Patrick Lamont.

VisitScotland would like to extend a huge thanks to all our partners in Scotland who helped make this survey possible. Even with our best intentions data was not collected from every venue in Scotland. If your business hosts association events and was not able to submit data for this report, please get in touch so we can ensure you are included in future.