Tourism Symposium 2017: connecting Culture, Heritage and Hospitality, as top tourism experts gather in Edinburgh

Monday June 19, 2017


Now in its fourth year The Tourism Society's Tourism Symposium is well established as a major national conference attracting significant numbers and senior individuals from across the UK’s tourism, heritage, cultural and related visitor economy sectors.  In addition, this year, the event attracted an international audience as we welcomed delegates from Canada, Malta, Namibia, Thailand and Australia.  Our two day programme delivered a fast-paced agenda connecting delegates with over thirty industry experts. We had 160 delegates in attendance at the Symposium, representing a cross-section of the visitor economy from destinations, hotels, attractions, culture, heritage, retail, wellness, consultancy, creative industries and education.     The continuing involvement and support of Arts Council England as a key partner, has enabled the Tourism Society to build on the success of the previous Tourism Symposia held in Birmingham, Kent and Liverpool, developing the programme’s breadth and depth to attract an inspiring range of insightful, expert speakers. 

The programme began with keynote speaker Ty Speer, President and CEO of Tourism Vancouver, opening the discussion by sharing his city’s experience of using story-telling through social media in re-establishing its brand position from an outdoor to an urban-culture destination.  There followed an eclectic mix of speakers and panellists addressing key challenges facing the tourism, cultural and heritage sectors: from where will we find the leaders of tomorrow to how can we maximise the use of data, insights and technology in encouraging audiences to optimise their experiences. 

Fiona Hyslop, MSP, Cabinet Secretary for Culture, Tourism and External Affairs spoke passionately of the importance of the arts, culture and tourism to the Scottish economy and to the Scottish Government’s social agenda:

“Our tourism industry is doing well, and tourism remains of vital importance to the Scottish economy. In 2015, it generated around £11 billion of economy activity and provided 217,000 jobs.  The rapid growth in global tourism which is forecast represents a significant opportunity for the Scottish tourism sector to contribute to the Scottish Government’s commitment to creating a more successful country, with opportunities for all, right across Scotland, through sustainable and inclusive economic growth.

“One thing that will not change as we look to the future will be our welcome – for all of our visitors will know that they will always receive a warm welcome in Scotland.  That human touch will also remain crucial in ensuring the industry continues to flourish in the next 40 years.”


Taleb Rifai, Secretary General of the UNWTO also spoke, via video message, of the importance of tourism to social inclusion.  He stated that tourism cannot avoid having an impact, but that impact can be managed to positive effect and he stressed the  need to innovate through technology and collaboration to develop tourism and its ability to improve life around the world.

   Prior to the main Symposium, Arts Council England and VisitEngland held the Cultural Destinations Round  2 introductory meeting which focussed on establishing partnership practices for the new programme and looked at the profile and expectations of “cultural tourists”.  A programme of Discovery Tours offered delegates the opportunity to engage with local specialists looking at Edinburgh as a 70-year old Festival City; developments in the City’s 250 year old “New Town”; reflections on Scotland’s influence across the world at the National Museum of Scotland and modern Scottish identity as displayed at the new Parliament building and the chance to explore Glasgow’s contemporary cultural offer as a contrast to Edinburgh’s heritage (demonstrating the marketing partnership developed between the two cities in recent times).

    The event took place at The Hub, an historic, category A listed building located on Castlehill built originally as the Victoria Hall in 1842 to house the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland and now a venue offering a stunning combination of award-winning contemporary design and classic Victorian architecture.  Support from Arts Council England, along with Edinburgh Napier University, Scotrail, Convention Edinburgh, the Courtyard Marriott Edinburgh, Darnley’s Gin, England’s Heritage Cities, Family Holiday Association, The Hub, Print & Sign Centres, The Rowan Tree, Theatre of Management, This is Edinburgh, Scottish Enterprise, VisitScotland ensured the event demonstrated the strong partnership between those involved in the broader national visitor economy.

Over 100 delegates attended a networking reception at The Rowntree, once a gathering point for the key figures in the Scottish Enlightenment, Rabbie Burns, David Hume, Adam Smith, Deacon Brodie, with visits from James Watt and Benjamin Franklin. Darnley's Gin welcomed guests with a delicious Tonic Whisky Mint Julep whilst the brilliant fiddler, Robbie Greig, entertained.  Delegates were welcomed by Lord Thurso, President of the Tourism Society and Chairman of VisitScotland and Edinburgh’s Lord Provost Frank Ross who said:

‘Over four million people visit the city every year, supporting our city’s jobs, businesses and local economy.  Now more than ever, as the welcome the world to join us for the 70th anniversary of our festivals, the tourism spotlight shines on Edinburgh as a fantastic place to visit.  We haven’t got here by chance.  It is testament to the warm welcome of our hoteliers and festival organisers, our retailers, restaurants and bars, our transport and attraction workers and of course Edinburgh residents, that the capital remains such a renowned destination.  As civic leader, I am proud and delighted to welcome experts from across the industry to the city for the 2017 Tourism Symposium.  I trust everyone will enjoy their stay.’

Thanks go to all our sponsors and the Tourism Society Scotland Chapter, all supporters and the fantastic volunteers from Napier University.









To view our Symposium highlights video click here!  

“Save the date” now for our Tourism Symposium 2018 on the 4th & 5th June in Greenwich.