Scotland and its cities are set to be on the world stage over the next few months with events such as the Commonwealth Games, the Homecoming and the Ryder Cup.

There is also the annual influx of tourists to Edinburgh with the draw of the festivals during August drawing the spotlight to our country.

It is essential that we leverage this opportunity throughout the entire tourism industry and perform well with integrated transport connectivity. Ultimately it extends our international reach through business, arts and education.

Loading article content

There is a key opportunity to secure greater exposure to export markets and greater awareness of added value imports.

There are established organisations around that support small and medium-sized businesses in the import and export arena. Support is also available from local, national and European governments. But we need to make sure we are making the most of the international opportunity afforded by this summer of events.

Over the coming months we should ensure plans and goals are coordinated to share insight across industry sectors. We should also set aside local and regional agendas, focussing on the bigger picture.

Export markets are critical for sustainable growth and boosting job creation. Our competitors in other countries are not standing still. We need to encourage more business mentoring and support for SMEs, share market insight across non-competing business sectors and continuous focus on making it easier to do business aboard. Working more closely together and understanding the challenges, concerns and opportunities of the small and medium sized business is key.

Over the centuries our banks and professional services have a strong reputation in supporting export growth. These institutions should strive to work more closely with SMEs to understand their challenges, concerns and opportunities in relation to trading overseas. They should find ways of providing support and advice in business areas such as currency exposure, extended working capital finance and intellectual property.

In Scotland we also have a very strong and growing international student population. We should find solutions to tapping into language skills and cultural insights as well as providing opportunities for work experience.

At the Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce we are enhancing our offer in this area including launching an advisory service for business in Europe. The Global, UK and Scottish Chamber networks are also valuable sources of knowledge and support for the business community and continue to develop new support programmes.

Over the next six months we have a rare opportunity to welcome so many potential international customers onto our doorstep. Let's join forces to secure long-term advantages by working together and sharing.

David Birrell is chief executive of Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce