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Rory Archibald, Associations & Sectors at VisitScotland Business Events


Following the reopening of the business events industry in the UK and internationally, our team have been out on the open road catching up with industry friends and colleagues at several meetings and tradeshows.

We caught up with Rory Archibald, Associations & Sectors at VisitScotland Business Events who told us about his experiences travelling to events across the UK and internationally and the importance of Scotland’s presence at these events.

In your experience, what has it been like travelling abroad since borders have reopened? Has it been easier than expected?

It has been much easier than I expected. Initially I was quite apprehensive but, once my first overseas trip was out of the way and I had gone through the process, the rest were easy.

Whilst it is more paperwork to complete and remember, if it allows us to do the job we love and allows us to travel and promote Scotland, then I am more than happy to do it. Usually, it is a couple of additional forms to fill out and that’s it. However, for my trip to IMEX America, which took place in Las Vegas, I also had to do a PCR test prior to departure. It’s just a case of making sure to follow the instructions for each country you visit, and I haven’t had any issues whatsoever.

Which events have you attended in person since the borders have reopened?

It has been an exceptionally busy final quarter of the year for the business events team - it almost feels like pre-Covid times.

To date I have attended:

  • PCMA EMEA CL in Lausanne
  • TEDX in Vienna
  • IMEX America in Las Vegas
  • IBTM World in Barcelona
  • C&IT Corporate A-Listers launch in London
  • The Meetings show, also in London

I am delighted that VisitScotland has been able to have a presence at these events and it has been great getting back to meeting face-to-face.

What processes have changed at events? Are the changes something you would like to see implemented at future events? Are there any you think worked particularly well, or not so well?

There were a couple of things that have changed, which I certainly think worked well. PCMA, IMEX America and IBTM World implemented Covid vaccination checks before entering the venue, which reassured me that I was entering a safe space where business could be done responsibly.

There were also restrictions on the number of delegates we were able to have on our stands at the larger events, which meant we couldn’t do our usual presentations or receptions, but this was the right thing to do to ensure our partners and guests were safe on our stand. It also allowed us to focus on the conversations we had with individual clients without the distraction of having other events take place around us.

Also, it was good to see that conversations around sustainability were at the centre of each event I have attended. I hope this remains a focus and that as and industry we continue to grow this conversation so that we are seen to be a leading sector in the fight against climate change.

One of the downfalls was that at some shows mask wearing wasn’t mandatory on the show floor, which can be unnerving when you have thousands of delegates in one exhibition hall. I think during the current climate mask wearing should be a mandatory requirement, like it was at IBTM World, so that we can meet in the safest way possible.

Has getting back to meeting in-person after a hiatus changed the way you feel about face-to-face events? In what way?

For me, it has reinforced the importance of meeting face to face. The sessions that we have been involved in, the talks I’ve given and the conversations we have had with clients would not have the same impact virtually.

Virtual has now, for me at least, become tiresome, unengaging, and unwanted. I strongly believe that real change and real conversations can only happen face to face, it’s the only way to meaningfully engage with your audience or build a relationship with a client. A perfect example of this was COP26, where a virtual event was ruled out by the organisers as they recognised the only way to bring people together to try and solve a crisis was when they were all in one room together.

Why is it important that VisitScotland Business Events attends these events?

We need to once again grasp the opportunity to promote Scotland as a premier destination for change and meeting face-to-face on a global scale.

Since March 2020, we have been reduced to only online platforms which simply does not have the same impact as discussing the future of our industry in person or promoting the work Scotland is doing to bring people back to meeting with purpose face-to-face.

By representing the nation at these events, we show that Scotland is a confident destination that is ready to welcome the world again.

What events will you be attending in Q1 2022?

We are hoping to be at PCMA Convening Leaders, which takes place in Las Vegas in early January. The team is also looking forward to attending the SEC Burns Supper in London, which has been a sorely missed event in our calendar.

What are your top tips for those restarting travelling for business?

  • Preparation is an absolute must. Check all of the entry requirements for the country you are travelling to and make sure you have multiple copies of the documents you need, just to be on the safe side.
  • A good power bank, especially for long-haul travel where you may need your phone if you have digital documentation to show at the other end.
  • Travel safely, take multiple masks, lots of hand sanitiser, wipes, even disinfectant spray for your bags and outwear clothing. By being safe, you can be confident.
  • Be kind. Check-in staff need to read different requirements for each person’s final destination. I’ve witnessed lots of shouting matches between passengers and staff and in my experience ultimately, it’s been the passenger’s fault for not following the correct guidance and protocols.