Glasgow Convention Bureau reports conference business worth over £150m

SEC campus
SEC campus

New figures show that Glasgow attracted more conference business in the past financial year than ever before.

Glasgow is recognised as one of the world’s leading conference destinations and year-end data from Glasgow Convention Bureau, which is part of Glasgow Life, reinforces the importance of business tourism to the city’s economy.

Some 538 conferences were held in Glasgow in 2018/19, bringing nearly 160,000 delegates to Scotland’s largest city. Collectively, UK and international meetings were worth just over £150m in delegate spend, reflecting Glasgow’s most successful conference year-to-date.

Putting that in context, the number of conferences held annually in Glasgow has increased by 153% over the past decade from 213 in 2009/10.

In the same period, the number of delegates has risen 90% from 84,000 while delegate spend has increased 70% from £88m. 

Glasgow Convention Bureau competes globally to attract conference business, working with the Scottish Event Campus (SEC), NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde, the city’s academic community, local transport operators and businesses across Glasgow’s tourism and hospitality industry on over 100 bids for major conferences every year.

Just last month, a report issued by meetings industry body the International Congress and Convention Association (ICCA) showed that Glasgow attracted more international delegates in the 2018 calendar year than major competitors including Melbourne, Milan, Chicago, Geneva and Washington DC.

Over 30,000 overseas delegates visited Glasgow last year, placing the city 34th overall in ICCA’s index of 400 cities. ICCA is the global community and knowledge hub for the international association meetings industry with more than 1,100 members in nearly 100 countries.

Only London, which ranked 14th worldwide with 54,788 delegates, featured ahead of Glasgow in the UK and no other UK city made it into the top 40. At the top of the ICCA rankings, Barcelona attracted the most international delegates (135,000) followed by Paris (126,000), Vienna (105,000), Munich (93,443) and Berlin (87,623).

Glasgow also equalled its best ever return for international conferences held in a single year, with 52 meetings taking place in 2018 (previously achieved in 2015); ranking the city ahead of the likes of New York, Zurich, Rotterdam, Geneva, San Francisco and Moscow. 

Councillor David McDonald, Depute Leader of Glasgow City Council and Chair of Glasgow Life, said: “Glasgow understands the importance and value of its knowledge base economy, and these results are a clear endorsement of the confidence that the global meetings industry has in our city, particularly in key sectors like life sciences, engineering and sustainability, which account for more than 50% of our conference business. Many of these conferences are secured with the support of our world-class academic ambassadors who invite their international peers to meet here.

“As our latest ICCA ranking shows, as well as attracting smaller niche and specialist conferences, Glasgow’s strategy of targeting major international congresses, which attract thousands of overseas delegates and deliver significant economic impact, has positioned us in the top 10% of conventions destinations in the world. It’s testament to how hard the city and industry partners have worked together to maximise our share of the global conference market.”

Major conventions that took place in Glasgow in 2018/19 included the World Federation of Hemophilia; the World Down’s Syndrome Congress; the Royal College of General Practitioners’ Annual Conference and the National Cancer Research Institute Conference (NCRI).

Collectively, these four major medical meetings brought more than 9,000 delegates to Glasgow; boosting the local economy by £17m, with the city seeing off strong competition from Prague, Rome and Dublin to secure them. Following the success of the 2018 NCRI Conference, the meeting will return to Glasgow in November this year. 

Professor Owen Sansom, Director at the Beatson Institute for Cancer Research and Co-Chair of the 2018 NCRI Conference, said: “Scotland’s reputation as a centre for ground-breaking medical research and development is globally renowned and it’s 10 years since the Beatson Institute – the UK’s most advanced NHS cancer centre – opened its doors in Glasgow, so it was fitting that we brought the NCRI Conference here for the first time last year.

“Glasgow is increasingly being recognised as a first choice host for the world’s most important medical meetings and that reflects the strength of the city’s academic community and the tremendous energy and support from the teams at the SEC and Glasgow Convention Bureau.

“We’re very much looking forward to welcoming our delegates back to Glasgow this year and what’s really exciting is that it will bring together people from all areas of cancer research; from scientists to clinicians as well as cancer survivors, enabling us to make  important connections across specialisms both in the UK and internationally.”  

Kathleen Warden, Director of Conference Sales at the Scottish Event Campus, said: “It has been an exceptional year for conferences in Glasgow and it’s the result of outstanding teamwork with partners across the city. 

“The SEC has enjoyed a record year with 55% growth in conference turnover and we remain a key driver for attracting international meetings; welcoming 80% of all oversees delegates to our campus. Conferences are a catalyst for social and economic progress and play an important role in continuing to internationalise the city’s reputation.”

Janice Fisher, Joint Chair of the Greater Glasgow Hoteliers’ Association (GGHA), added: “Such positive year-end results reflect Glasgow’s position as one of the world’s premier conference destinations and nowhere is the value of business and leisure tourism more apparent than in our hotel sector. 

“Six new developments have added more than 1,000 new hotel rooms to the city’s accommodation stock in the past 18 months and another 1,900 rooms are in the pipeline by 2021, yet demand from delegates and tourists continues to outstrip supply. 

“The GGHA is delighted to work in partnership with Glasgow Convention Bureau and city partners and we look forward to continuing to provide a warm welcome to the global meetings industry.”

In March, Glasgow Convention Bureau was named the UK’s best convention bureau for an incredible 13th consecutive year. Looking ahead, Glasgow has confirmed conference business on its books until 2024 and bids in planning through to 2026.

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