THE chairman of VisitScotland has urged the tourism industry to guard against complacency ahead of a potentially bumper year for Scottish tourism in 2014.
Mike Cantlay is leading a delegation of Scottish tourism businesses, including Edinburgh's Sheraton Grand Hotel, Historic Scotland and Strathmore Hotels, to the World Travel Market in London this week. As many as 46,000 buyers of tourism products and services are expected to attend.
With the tourism market dominated by a relatively small number of big players, he said the importance of the expo to Scotland should not be underestimated.
Mr Cantlay said: "The key feature with the World Travel Market is these are the global players.
"When it comes down to it, probably half of our tourism revenues, certainly in terms of the actual spend by visitors, is dependent on literally just several hundred of these global players - between airlines, hotel companies, travel businesses and car rental companies.
"When you put it into perspective, we have 20,000-odd businesses and 270,000 people dependent on this industry. But actually it comes down to just several hundred of these huge global businesses we depend on.
He added: "Most are involved in Scotland and this is our opportunity to get them in one place."
Mr Cantlay has planned talks at this week's expo with airlines Virgin, Emirates and British Airways, stating that the fortunes of the Scottish tourism industry depend on convenient air links with major cities around the world. He said the industry had worked hard with Virgin to re-establish connections lost with the 28-member Star Alliance after BMI was sold to BA two years ago, as a result the loss of a route to Heathrow.
BA, which Mr Cantlay described as a "key player in Scotland", is part of the One World alliance.
The World Travel Market takes place as anticipation grows that the combination of the Commonwealth Games, Ryder Cup and Homecoming celebration will make 2014 a lucrative year for Scottish tourism.
But Mr Cantlay insisted success next year is not a given. He stated: "We in Scotland just assume the world knows about what is happening in Scotland in 2014 between Ryder Cups and Commonwealth Games and all the rest of it. It does not work that way.
"We have to get out there and position ourselves. There are 46,000 buyers attending this thing. There are lots of countries competing to highlight what is on in their part of the world to encourage extra business.
"One of the great strengths is we have a suite of events that covers the world in terms of interest, but we need to be realistic. If I was speaking to an American representative of an American airline, they do not know what the Commonwealth Games are."
He added: "We cannot be complacent - we have to go out and position ourselves across the world."
Although there is natural focus on 2014, Mr Cantlay declared tourism businesses must use next year's events as a "platform" to build business in the second half of the decade.