By Scott Wright

ONE of Scotland’s biggest events destinations has underlined its confidence in the future of the conference market to rebound from the pandemic as it revealed it will host three major international conventions in the second half of next year.

Edinburgh International Conference Centre (EICC) announced yesterday that it will stage the British Society of Lifestyle Medicine, Cleantech Forum Europe, and the Society for Endocrinology conferences in September, October and November 2021. The events are respectively expected to attract1,000, 400 and 1,000 delegates respectively.

The coup comes at the end of hugely damaging year for the Scottish conference and events sector, with the EICC last having held a major gathering in the middle of March – before the first lockdown to suppress the coronavirus infection rate was introduced.

However the centre, which is ultimately owned by City of Edinburgh Council, has been hosting events online in the period since.

Chief executive Marshall Dallas said: “It would be a huge understatement to say we are looking forward to the return of conferences next year, particularly in light of the challenging time our team has faced since the pandemic took hold and we closed doors at the venue back in March.

“There are typically long lead times in the conference and events industry, so we relish the opportunity to plan ahead for these three major conferences, and we continue to take bookings for large scale conferences for late 2021 and into 2022.”

Mr Dallas added: “What is going to be key going forward, is the rapid and successful implementation of the vaccine.

“We are confident we will see more UK conferences and events feed through next year, with a fuller return to international conferences in 2022. We also know that business events will be a key driver in rebooting the Scottish economy as we come out of the pandemic.”

A spokesman for EICC noted that the sales pipeline for prospective events is “very strong”, noting that conferences originally planned for this year have been rescheduled for 2021. He added that enquiry levels for corporate and association business are high for next year and into 2022.

The EICC is not anticipating holding any events until at least July 2021, though that will depend on how restrictions move as next year progresses.

In its most recent accounts, lodged at Companies House in September, the EICC said the pandemic has had a “significant impact on event bookings from mid-March until the end of August”. It added that, “at this point in time, it is difficult to ascertain how great the effect of the crisis will be on the company from September until the end of the year.”

However, it said in the accounts that amidst the crisis its sales team had “continued to receive a steady stream of enquiries for 2021 and subsequent years.”

Mr Dallas added yesterday: “Healthcare, health technology and CleanTech are among the greatest societal issues for the world as we approach the end of 2020, so it’s fitting we have these important conferences in place next year.

“It also squares with our mission to create an environment to inspire ideas that change the world.”

Rob Lawson, chairman of the British Society of Lifestyle Medicine, said: “The influence of lifestyle medicine is increasingly accepted as an essential component for addressing the growing impact of avoidable 21st century disease globally. The British Society of Lifestyle Medicine is pleased to be bringing its 5th annual international conference to the EICC on its 25th anniversary.”

Richard Youngman, chief executive of Cleantech Group, said: “We are delighted to be bringing Cleantech Forum Europe, Europe’s leading sustainable innovation event, to the EICC in Edinburgh in 2021.

“It is good timing since Scotland will also host the postponed COP-26 next year.

“Our innovation-focused forum, a generator of climate solutions, has not been in the UK, Europe’s largest venture capital market, since 2006.”