Glasgow offers meeting professionals a dram of Celtic culture

Scotland’s second city, Glasgow, has a record-breaking and innovative history, says Holly Patrick.

While the orange cone worn by the Duke of Wellington statue outside the Gallery of Modern Art is a nod to Glaswegians’ wicked sense of humour, Glasgow has plenty of other accolades to shout about.

Most recently, Glasgow announced that it will welcome 30,000 delegates, including 200 world leaders, to discuss the climate change emergency when it hosts the 26th Conference of the Parties – or COP26 – next year.

This year, the Glasgow Convention Bureau (GCB) reported the best ever year-end results for conference business in the city, providing a £150 million boost into the local economy. The city welcomed 160,000 delegates, including 30,000 international visitors to more than 530 conferences in 2018. However, this isn’t a surprise, as a recent report issued by the International Congress and Convention Association (ICCA) recognised Glasgow as the conference destination attracting more delegates than any other UK city outside of London.

This has been the city’s intention since Deacon Blue were first bothering the charts, as Aileen Crawford, head of conventions at GCB, explains: “Glasgow recognised the importance of conferences in the 1980s and created an infrastructure that works so well today.”


Beyond boardrooms, Glasgow has an eclectic mix of culture from music venues, cuisine, art and architecture and the GCB’s new Next Stop Glasgow incentive initiative aims to showcase these cultural gems to visitors. Glasgow’s incentive market already contributes an estimated £17 million to the local economy with the average incentive trip spend per delegate in Scotland at £1,500.

The GCB worked with Scottish Destination Management companies, local businesses and the Society for Incentive Travel Excellence to develop incentive packages to allow delegates to explore the city and surrounding lochs through food, design, music and more. 

Gillian Rae, account director at Spectra DMC, said: “Spectra DMC is actively promoting Glasgow as an exciting destination for incentive groups. Glasgow is a modern, dynamic city with a creative edge. Glasgow has an authentic vibe to it which makes it interesting as a destination. On the outskirts of the city, you have access to Loch Lomond where you can combine urban adventure with a city programme. As a company, we are now starting to see a real interest in Glasgow as an incentive destination.”

The Next Stop Glasgow campaign will help support the delivery of Glasgow’s Tourism and Visitor Plan to grow the city’s tourism economy by attracting one million more overnight visitors by 2023.  New Incentive business is expected to contribute to an associated spend of £771 million and an additional 6,600 jobs in the city.

A breath of fresh air

Across town, the University of Strathclyde’s Technology and Innovation Centre welcomed a record number of delegates from more than 50 nations to the 27th international Input-Output Association Conference (IIOA). This year’s conference focus was on sustainability and minimising the environmental impact of the conference on their host destination.

Gordon Hodge, head of conferencing and events at the University of Strathclyde, said: “Our sustainability team has worked hard to identify ways that we can support clients like the IIOA to minimise the environmental impact of their meetings.”

Coming to Glasgow

Glasgow’s conference calendar in the coming months is busy with medical and scientific meetings, among other sectors.

In October, the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow will welcome the Faculty of Travel Medicine Annual Symposium and the University of Strathclyde, The Technology and Innovation Centre will host the International Healthy Street Summit.

SEC recently announced a successful bid win that has secure the European Society of Radiotherapy and Oncology Annual Congress in 2023 – expected to attract more than 6,000 participants.

Host City, an annual meeting for organisers of major sporting, business and cultural events, is also being hosted in Glasgow in November and is predicted to generate a £200,000 for the economy.

Case study:

Claire McCarthy, Inspired Thinking Group (ITG) 

  • The Client: KFC UKI
  • The Venue: The SEC
  • The Event: KFC RGM Fest 2020
  • Number of delegates: 1400

“The SEC gave us the flexibility to be able to deliver all of the aspects needed for our event, from registration and morning plenary to multiple breakout rooms and an evening awards dinner. When we book venues up to two years out, we don’t always know 100 per cent what spaces we are going to need and as the event evolves and we have a clearer idea of what the content requires in terms of space, having that flexibility is key.

The other big thing for us is The SEC’s proximity to bedrooms and travel links. With our delegates coming from all parts of the UK and Ireland, being less than 15 minutes from the airport and with a train station on-site and then being able to accommodate them all within walking distance from the venue is a real plus for us.

The wider city is not only a great place to visit but the support given by the team at the Glasgow Convention Bureau is like no other we have experienced. They work with us to make sure we have all the information we need to make the event a success from venues we could work with, to branding around the city, travel and logistics.”

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