Scotland hosts World Canals Conference, 19th – 22nd September

Cruise boats on the Caledonian Canal at Fort Augustus where it joins Loch Ness. Credit VisitScotland / Kenny Lam.

Cruise boats on the Caledonian Canal at Fort Augustus where it joins Loch Ness. Credit VisitScotland / Kenny Lam.

EDINBURGH, SCOTLAND, 2016-Sep-19 — /Travel PR News/ — Over 300 experts from around the globe have arrived in Scotland as the prestigious World Canals Conference gets underway in Inverness, the gateway to the majestic Caledonian Canal.

Hosted by Scottish Canals and opened today (19 September) by Fergus Ewing MSP, Cabinet Secretary for Rural Economy and Connectivity, the four-day conference will see business leaders and professionals from more than a dozen nations celebrate innovative thinking and cutting-edge delivery in a range of disciplines including sustainable tourism development, regeneration, heritage management, climate change, and engineering within the iconic landscape of the Scottish Highlands.

Returning to Scotland for the first time in over a decade, the conference will also showcase the many attractions of Scotland’s rejuvenated 137-mile canal network to a global audience, from the incredible Kelpies – the largest equine sculptures on the planet – and The Falkirk Wheel, to innovative projects underway in surface water management, asset monitoring and placemaking.

Featuring more than 50 presentations and plenary sessions, the conference will offer attendees the chance to hear from world-renowned speakers such as Roland Lewis, President and CEO of the New York Waterfront Alliance; Pete Grannis, former Commissioner of the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation; and Daniel Fabrega, Panama’s Ambassador to the United Kingdom.

Fergus Ewing MSP, Cabinet Secretary for Rural Economy and Connectivity, said:

“Scotland is developing its ‘canal culture’ and in doing so contributing to our economy through new tourist attractions as well as promoting regeneration. This conference presents the perfect opportunity to showcase the exciting developments Scottish Canals has achieved in partnership with other organisations while also outlining their future vision.

“It is also a platform to stimulate cooperation and share know-how among specialists, not just from Scotland but further afield, at a time when the importance of inland waterways is increasingly recognised.Conference delegates will also experience the warm Scottish hospitality and the many attractions of Inverness and the Great Glen, something we hope will make them want to return for future visits.”

World Canals Conference has received funding from the VisitScotland National Conference Bid Fund.

Neil Brownlee, Head of Business Events at VisitScotland, said:

“Business events play a hugely important role in Scotland, not just for the significant contribution they make to the local and national economy through business tourism, but also in promoting the country’s profile on the world stage.

“The World Canals Conference represents an incredible opportunity for the Highlands and Scotland to highlight the innovative developments of its waterways, as we celebrate the Year of Innovation, Architecture and Design, while further boosting its reputation as a deliverer of major events and conferences. We hope visiting delegates enjoy their stay in the Highlands and are inspired to return to explore our beautiful country further.”

The arrival of the World Canals Conference in Inverness marks the culmination of a year-long programme of events counting down to the conference and celebrating everything that makes Scotland’s historic inland waterways unique. #CanalMagic, organised by Scottish Canals and supported by the Year of Innovation, Architecture and Design, featured everything from Red Bull Neptune Steps – the world’s only uphill swimming race – and the creation of a Willy Wonka-inspired chocolate scale model of The Falkirk Wheel for Cake Fest Scotland, to community canal festivals held in the heart of both Edinburgh and Inverness.

Steve Dunlop, Chief Executive of Scottish Canals, said:

“We’re absolutely thrilled to host the World Canals Conference in Inverness. Scotland’s canals are in the midst of a renaissance and there couldn’t be a better time to welcome the world to their banks and showcase the innovative projects, iconic attractions and incomparable experiences of the nation’s waterways.

“Canals continue to play an increasingly vital role all over the globe, bringing positive transformational change to the communities on their banks and driving innovation in a huge number of areas. The World Canals Conference will celebrate those achievements, highlighting pioneering work in everything from water management and regeneration to climate change and engineering.

“As well as the incredible canal-related projects underway around the globe, the conference will also celebrate everything that makes Scotland such an incredible place to visit. From the myth and majesty of our scenery and iconic landmarks to our world-famous food, drink and hospitality, the World Canals Conference will showcase Scotland and its historic waterways at their very best.”

Once the transport arteries that stoked the fires of the industrial revolution before falling into decline in the mid-1960s, today Scotland’s canals are home to cyclists and social enterprises rather than coal scows and Clydesdale horses. Passing through some of Scotland’s most beautiful landscapes and the bustling cities of Glasgow, Edinburgh and Inverness, the 250-year-old waterways are increasingly vital venues for business, leisure and tourism that attract more than 22 million visits a year.

Andy Dalrymple, Managing Director of Mackenzie Construction, headline sponsor of the World Canals Conference, said:

“Mackenzie Construction is delighted to support Scottish Canals in hosting this year’s World Canals Conference.

“Our partnership has delivered a huge number of innovative projects on and along Scotland’s canals. From the creation of a new water play park at The Falkirk Wheel, to the construction of Pinkston Watersports – Scotland’s first urban watersports centre – and the ongoing transformation of Bowling Basin, the gateway to the Forth & Clyde Canal, it’s a success story founded on true collaboration and something we look forwarded to celebrating at the World Canals Conference.”

– ENDS –

Notes to Editors

    • About Business Events
      According to research commissioned by the Meeting Professionals International Foundation in 2013, Business Events are worth £1.9 billion to the Scottish economy. The Business Events Industry focuses on Scotland as a destination for conferences, conventions, and incentive programmes. Currently, business events represent 20% of all tourism expenditure in Scotland. Business visitors spend almost twice that of leisure visitors, making it a highly lucrative sector, and it is also less seasonal than leisure tourism. In addition, attracting a major conference reinforces Scotland’s credentials in key industries and can make us a more attractive destination for inward investors, meaning that the benefits of business events extend well beyond delegate spend. For information about business events in Scotland go to
  • About Scottish Canals
    Scottish Canals is responsible to the Scottish Government for the management and development of the Union, Monkland, Forth & Clyde, Crinan and Caledonian Canals. As well as the waterways themselves, Scottish Canals care for 251 bridges, 212 buildings, 256 locks, The Falkirk Wheel, The Kelpies and 19 water supply reservoirs in locations across Scotland. The reservoirs cover an area equivalent to 7,494 football pitches and supply the canals with the 332 million litres of water which flow through them each day.
    The Forth & Clyde, Union and Monkland canals in the Lowlands, the Crinan Canal in Argyll and the Caledonian Canal in the Highlands together extend over 137 miles from coast to coast, across country and into the cities of Edinburgh, Glasgow and Inverness. Built two hundred years ago to fire the Industrial Revolution, Scotland’s canals are now recognised as Scheduled Monuments and attract 22million visits per year.
    For more information, visit or follow @ScottishCanals on Twitter
  • About the World Canals Conference
    The biggest event in the international waterways calendar, Inverness joins an illustrious list of past World Canals Conference hosts including the Grand Canal in China, Montreal in Canada and New York in the USA. As well as innovative projects from around the globe, the 2016 World Canals Conference will also celebrate developments along Scotland’s 137-mile waterway network, from the creation of The Kelpies – the largest equine sculptures on the planet – to The Falkirk Wheel’s role as the world’s only rotating boat lift and an iconic tourism destination.
    Over 300 business leaders from more than a dozen countries will attend the four-day conference from the 19th – 22nd September, hearing from keynote speakers including Dr Jonathan Chambers, Team Leader in Geophysical Tomography at the British Geographical Survey; Riccardo Marini, Director of Gehl Architects; and Daniel Fabrega, Panama’s Ambassador to the United Kingdom. More than 50 presentations and plenary sessions will also be held over the course of the conference.
    As well as a range of high profile speakers, the event has also attracted sponsors and partners from around the globe, including: Mackenzie Construction; Red Bull; KLM; Air France; VisitScotland National Conference Bid Fund; the Scottish Government; the Year of Innovation, Architecture & Design; igloo Regeneration; Sustrans; Linssen Yachts; AECOM; Visit Inverness Loch Ness; Peter Brett Associates; Highland Council; the Inverness Common Good Fund; Scottish Waterways Trust; Rabbie’s Trail Burners; Loch Ness by Jacobite; Historic Environment Scotland; Highlands and Islands Enterprise; Inverness College UHI; the Inverness Business Improvement District; Tomatin Distillery; Pickering’s Gin; and Loch Ness Centre & Exhibition.
    More information on the conference can be found at
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  • The organisation’s core objective is to contribute to the Tourism 2020 Strategy ambition of growing tourism revenues by £1 billion by 2020.
  • This will be supported by seven overarching strategies:
    1. Marketing: we will market Scotland and its outstanding assets to visitors from all parts of the world, including the promotion of Scotland to people living in Scotland       to visit different parts of the country
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    2016 Year of Innovation, Architecture and Design
  • 2016 will shine a spotlight on Scotland’s achievements in innovation, architecture and design through a wide-ranging, variety of new and existing activity.
  • The Year of Innovation, Architecture and Design started on 1 January 2016 and will end on 31 December 2016.It will build on the momentum generated by the 2015 Year of Food and Drink as well as previous years including Homecoming Scotland 2014, the Year of Creative and the Year of Natural.
  • Through a series of exciting events and activity, the year will showcase Scotland’s position as an “innovation nation”, its outstanding built heritage, and its thriving, internationally acclaimed creative industries sector.
  • The Year of Innovation, Architecture and Design is a Scottish Government initiative being led by VisitScotland, and supported by a variety of partners including Creative Scotland, Architecture + Design Scotland, Scottish Tourism Alliance, Scottish Enterprise, The National Trust for Scotland, Historic Environment Scotland, Highlands and Islands Enterprise and The Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland (RIAS).
  • The Year of Innovation, Architecture and Design is supported by £570,000 of Scottish Government funding.
  • The Year of Innovation, Architecture and Design events fund is managed by EventScotland, part of VisitScotland’s Events Directorate.
  • Join the conversation at #IAD2016


Hamish Hutchinson

Corporate Press Officer – National
Edinburgh Tourism, Business Tourism, Scottish Thistle Awards
0131 472 2283
Out of hours – 0131 472 2324

SOURCE: VisitScotland