A FUND set up two years ago to help bring international conferences to Scotland has attracted 46 events expected to generate more than £100 million in delegate spend between now and 2021.

VisitScotland said the impact made by its Conference Bid Fund, which has helped secure events in sectors such as food and drink, education, life sciences and renewable energy, has been hailed as a vote of confidence in Scotland's university research, as well as its status as a tourist destination.

It also highlighted the impact local authorities can make by supporting conference bids, with the delegate spend projected between now and 2021 spinning out of £936,000 of local investment.

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Neil Brownlee, head of business tourism at VisitScotland, said Scotland is winning conference business from international, not for profit organisations, which can choose to host their events in cities anywhere in the world.

Describing business tourism as a "bridge between tourism and inward investment", he said: "It's a very important statement on behalf of VisitScotland and the Scottish Government that we in Scotland, along with our academics and our world class universities, are all working together to bring these very influential delegates to our country."

Mr Brownlee highlighted the long-term benefits to local economies around Scotland from the advance bookings. The calculations on delegate expenditure, which benefits hotels, bars, taxi firms and visitor attractions, are based on data from cities which have previously held the events.

He added: "These are actually quite recession-resistant, these association conferences.

"They happen come what may. It's very much business on the books. It's locked in, it's contracted in a way that perhaps other parts of tourism can't always say. We're very pleased it's over seven or eight years and it shows everyone the long lead time for this sort of business."

Mr Brownlee emphasised it is not only the big cities but destinations such as Perth, St Andrews, Shetland and Stornoway that are tapping into the bid fund.

He said Scotland's centres of excellence such as the universities of St Andrews and Stirling are "central to the appeal" of Scotland.

Mr Brownlee, who heads a 14-strong team based across Edinburgh, Ayrshire, Inverness, Perth in St Andrews, as well as London and Toronto, said: "Our job is to attract incremental business tourism to Scotland and it is important to say it is not all about the cities.

"We want conferences for 10, 20 and 30 people and we want them to be going into Stirling, Inverness, Aviemore, Stornoway and Shetland.

"That's why we are so pleased Stornoway and Shetland have been using the fund. It's not about thousands of delegates in Edinburgh and Glasgow, it is also about the national spread."

The update from the bid fund, which said the 46 conferences lined up will attract 62,000 delegates, comes as separate research shows events hosted by the recently-refurbished Edinburgh International Conference Centre (EICC) injected £50.4m in the local economy last year.

The City of Edinburgh Council, which is the single shareholder in the EICC, said the longer duration of international events and higher delegate numbers helped exceed the previous high of £35.6m in 2012. The venue's new Lennox Suite doubled its capacity.