In the spotlight: Gordon Dow, Business Development Manager, Edinburgh First

With the meetings and events industry full of exceptional talent, it's important to recognise the valuable range of insight we have available within the mia network. We caught up with Business Development Manager of Edinburgh First, Gordon Dow to discuss the industry and the value of mia membership.

Describe your day-to-day duties

Each day is very different depending on my current projects.  Two of the largest markets I focus on are Association and Academic conferences, this is where I spend my time researching and engaging with academics and associations nationally and internationally to attract conferences to Edinburgh and to the University of Edinburgh.  We also actively encourage conference organisers and accommodation bookers to come visit our portfolio, therefore I try and spend as much of my time as possible conducting site visits for prospective conferences and introducing new clients to our venues, accommodation and support services.  We have 16 venues, 2 hotels, serviced apartments, campus rooms and an Event Management Services, lots to talk about!

How long have you worked in the sector?

I studied Hospitality and Tourism Management and gained a degree at Queen Margaret University in Edinburgh graduating in 2000.  My early career was varied and interesting, which began in the hotel sector very much front of house leading restaurant and front office teams which lead on to reservations/revenue management and business development.  I enjoyed working for brands such as the Radisson Hotel Group, Principal Hotels and Apex Hotel Group.  My career at Edinburgh First, the University of Edinburgh is in it’s 11th year, the journey has been exciting so far where we have developed our products, support services, brand, partnerships and collaborations.           

When and why did you decide to join the mia?

Edinburgh First is fairly new to MIA, we see the accreditation and business opportunities as an invaluable tool and part of future progression within the industry.  There is a variety of quality events and networking opportunities, as well as training initiatives we are planning to be a part of. 

What is exciting you about the meetings and events industry at the moment?

In Scotland I have seen a growth in exciting collaborations between destinations and their local academia and industries working together as teams to bid for and host International conferences in Scotland.   These collaborations and this industry culture not only win bids for the city, but creates a better understanding and transparency of how our industry can support academia and other industries through increased engagement.  The legacy these conferences leave in their destinations is invaluable, such as community initiatives, investment into the country and the spark of new initiatives between academia and related industries.  It is not just about the delegate spend it’s also the positive legacy the conference leaves behind in the destination.

What do you think are the greatest challenges that the industry is currently facing?

Political uncertainty is one of the biggest.  There are reports nationally throughout the whole industry of the impacts this is currently having and also on the possible future impacts to our industry.  We have noted feedback from some European and international organisations that they have chosen other destinations due to this negative climate.  Competition is already stiff for the UK to attract these congresses with many destinations investing in their infrastructure and people.   

What are your thoughts on how we overcome these challenges as an industry?

Working together as destinations nationally, regionally and as cities to project a positive, open, joined up approach to engaging with the world.  Everyone should get involved in and support city, regional and national campaigns.  Excellent examples of this that we have been involved in and supported are:  Visit Scotland Business Events Team’s #IdeasBecomeLegend, Visit Scotland’s #ScotlandIsNow and Convention Edinburgh’s #MakeItEdinburgh campaigns.  We should also continue to investment into our infrastructure, accessibility, venues and services.  At Edinburgh First we have recently invested into our hotel properties and made a significant investment into our majestic McEwan Hall, our largest conference venue.  From this investment we have been able to attract larger conferences and more year round residential conference business.

How can people find out more about your venues?

Our website www.edinburghfirst.co.uk or call me on 0131 651 2055.