This article was previously published on The Social Travel Summit website.

The Social Travel Summit 2016 took place in Inverness, Gateway to the Scottish Highlands between 19-21 September. This year, 110 delegates from 25 countries, including 48 top travel influencers from around the world, arrived in Inverness for three days of learning, brainstorming, networking and fun!

#STSInverness began with tours of the Inverness-Loch Ness region for all delegates and an opening reception at the iconic Hootananny pub in Inverness. Keith Jenkins, CEO of iambassador and Chief Organiser of STS, and Graeme Ambrose, CEO of Visit Inverness-Loch Ness (sponsor of the opening reception), welcomed the delegates before kicking-off an evening of Scottish food and drinks, poetry, networking, music and dance!

Bloggers in action during the Scenic Tour around Inverness.

Bloggers in action during the Scenic Tour around Inverness.

Keith and Graeme sharing a joke on stage during the Opening Reception.

Keith and Graeme sharing a joke on stage during the Opening Reception.

Musicians entertained delegates during the Opening Reception at Hootananny.

Musicians entertained delegates during the Opening Reception at Hootananny.

Kirstie Pelling from Poets in Motion recites a special poem for STS delegates.

Kirstie Pelling from Poets in Motion recites a special poem for STS delegates.

Bloggers from around the world at the STS Opening Reception.

Bloggers from around the world at the STS Opening Reception.

The STS Inverness conference

The conference commenced the following day at the Kingsmills Hotel with a welcome speech by Robin Johnson, Marketing Director of VisitBritain, and the opening keynote by Doug Lansky on “The Future of Travel Media and Travel Marketing”.

Keith Jenkins and Angelika Schwaff open STS Inverness with a dance and a super-selfie!

Keith Jenkins and Angelika Schwaff open STS Inverness with a dance and a super-selfie!

The Opening Speech at STS Inverness by Robin Johnson, Marketing Director of VisitBritain.

The Opening Speech at STS Inverness by Robin Johnson, Marketing Director of VisitBritain.

Over the course of the day, the delegates engaged in thought-provoking discussions about the future of digital marketing and ways in which influencers and the tourism industry can work together more effectively in the STS Think Tank, which was moderated by Peter Jordan (Toposophy); picked up excellent pointers from Erik van Erp on SEO (AroundtheGlobe.nl); and listened to Jackie Fast (Slingshot Sponsorship) on the importance of sponsorship and how to pick the right partners.

Peter Jordan opening the STS Think Tank.

Peter Jordan opening the STS Think Tank.

Jackie Fast speaking about Sponsorship.

Jackie Fast speaking about Sponsorship.

Erik van Erp speaking about the finer points of SEO.

Erik van Erp speaking about the finer points of SEO.

During the Industry-to-Industry session, DMOs and brands had an open discussion on issues facing them such as convincing management of online value and leveraging assets influencers create. The influencers had their own session during which they learned from their peers on subjects such as building a team, making a sale, working with an agent and creating passive income streams.

Nina HΓΌpen-Bestendonk provided sketch notes of the various sessions.

Nina HΓΌpen-Bestendonk provided sketch notes of the various sessions.

In between, the delegates tucked into a delicious lunch in the garden and surprise treats during the coffee breaks. Fun quizzes in between sessions provided for light entertainment and lots of laughs.

Lunch at STS Inverness - yes, there were Scottish oysters!

Lunch at STS Inverness – yes, there were Scottish oysters!

The first conference day concluded with an insightful discussion with panelists David Johnstone from After Digital and Jonah Jones from facebook on “The Future of Search – How People will Engage”. The delegates were then driven to the beautiful Achnagairn Castle for the STS Gala Dinner, sponsored by VisitBritain and VisitScotland, where they were welcomed by bagpipers. It was a magical evening with a sumptuous three-course dinner, story-telling, gin and cheese-tasting, a fashion show and dancing!

A Scottish welcome for STS delegates at the Achnagairn Castle (image courtesy of Melvin Boecher).

A Scottish welcome for STS delegates at the Achnagairn Castle (image courtesy of Melvin Boecher).

The STS Gala Dinner at Achnagairn Castle (image courtesy of Juliana Broste).

The STS Gala Dinner at Achnagairn Castle (image courtesy of Juliana Broste).

The second conference day kicked off with an excellent keynote by Richard Millington (FeverBee) on “The Real Value of Communities and How to Manage Them”. This was followed by workshops on various social media channels and an influencer panel on “How to Get the Absolute Best Out of Bloggers”. In another session, Nicholas Montemaggi (iambassador) and Steve Keenan (Travel Perspective) spoke about innovative travel marketing ideas and concepts.

The iambassador bloggers, Kash Bhattacharya, Becki Enright, Matt Long and Melvin Boecher, share their insights on how to get the best out of bloggers.

The iambassador bloggers, Kash Bhattacharya, Becki Enright, Matt Long and Melvin Boecher, share their insights on how to get the best out of bloggers.

After another wonderful lunch, the influencers picked up great insider tips on how to drive revenue through affiliate marketing, whilst the industry delegates listened to a case-study on a collaborative project by trivago. This was followed by a coffee break with whisky ice-cream and a report by Peter Jordan summing up the discussions at the Think Tank.

trivago presents a case study.

trivago presents a case study.

STS Inverness ended on a fun, thought-provoking note with The Social Maze, a game unique to STS, in which panelists shared their views on social media trends in a hilarious fashion.

The Social Maze!

The Social Maze! (image courtesy of VisitBritain)

The closing reception, sponsored by iambassador, was held on a boat: a leisurely cruise on the mysterious Loch Ness. Musicians brought delegates to their feet and soon everyone was dancing on the boat!

A warm welcome from Jacobite Cruises for the STS Closing Reception.

A warm welcome from Jacobite Cruises for the STS Closing Reception.

STS delegates on the Loch Ness cruise. (image courtesy of Marvin Schoenberg)

STS delegates on the Loch Ness cruise. (image courtesy of Marvin Schoenberg)

The Social Travel Summit was once again THE platform for the tourism industry and travel influencers to meet, network, learn, discuss and shape the future ofΒ  online travel marketing. This year, Scottish culture and hospitality took centre-stage and resulted in arguably the most memorable STS ever!

Note: all images above were provided by Peter Parkorr, unless otherwise stated.

Social media coverage

#STSInverness generated approximately 50 million ‘opportunities-to-see’ across Twitter, Facebook and Instagram (source: Brandseye.com, period: 16-26 Sept. 2016), with a reach of 4.3 million Twitter accounts alone. This equals an advertising value of almost EUR 700 thousand (source: Brandseye.com). So far, 166 photos and videos tagged with #STSInverness have been shared on facebook, and 283 on Instagram. The hashtag #STSInverness was trending on Twitter in the United Kingdom on both conference days.

#STSInverness trending on Twitter.

#STSInverness trending on Twitter.

STS Inverness also made it into the local paper: The Inverness Courier:

STS Inverness in the Inverness Courier.

STS Inverness in the Inverness Courier.

Delegate feedback

The STS post-conference survey among the delegates showed overwhelming enthusiasm for the conference, with delegates giving STS Inverness an average score of 4.7 out of 5!

110 delegates from 25 countries, from as far away as China, Australia, Brazil, India, UAE, USA and Canada left Inverness not before tweeting or posting on facebook about their experiences at STS Inverness. Here is a selection of what they said:

A BIG THANK YOU TO OUR SUPPORTERS!

sts inverness supporters

SEE YOU NEXT YEAR!