Meetologue 2015


Wings of tartan, Scottish bagpipes, glorious history and fabulous whisky are all the kinds of images and stereotypes that have always helped form the mythical image of Scotland. Romantic Scotland has certainly won my heart, because of the fact that many years ago my wife and I chose this country as our honeymoon destination. It seems that Scotland has been waiting patiently for me to return once again and experience something new.

Whilst the Highlands haven’t changed a lot, I have been astonished by the dynamic transformation of Glasgow. The city is not only one of the fastest growing congress destinations, but also an inspiration for any emerging congress destinations that are seeking a breakthrough to the first congress league. Glasgow made it there with its positive energy, stakeholder involvement and also with its rebel stubbornness. We could already sense that during the referendum on the independence of Scotland, which was in the end rejected, but the interesting thing is that in Glasgow most people voted for independence. The idea of a new country and a better future was appealing mainly to the young people who represented 45% of the vote, but the vote of the old and wealthy, who believed the risk of going it alone was too big and that the 307 years of common history were worth continuing, prevailed at the end of the day – the voice of the separatists echoed, but it did not tip the scales. The Scots are a proud and brave nation and it can be felt everywhere, especially in Glasgow. Throughout their history they have fought both the Romans and the British. They have shown pride and courage and that has only reinforced the steely image of Scotland.

Glasgow is a UNESCO City of Music, with over 130 live music events every week. Glasgow Museums display Europe’s largest civic art collection across 7 free museum sites. The Riverside Museum, the city’s transport and social history museum and Kelvingrove Art Gallery & Museum each attract over 1m visitors annually. There are 91 parks in Glasgow, more than any other UK city. Glasgow is a university town – there are 5 universities with over 150,000 students, and did you know that the University of Glasgow was inaugurated in 1451 and is the 4th oldest in the World?

People Make Glasgow
The people of Glasgow are very warm, straightforward people with an incredible sense of humour and an amazing accent that occasionally requires an additional effort to be understood. My first contact with Glasgow was a pinkie cab that was equipped with a new city campaign slogan: People Make Glasgow. With every hour of my stay in the city it became increasingly clearer how well the slogan matches the spirit of the city. The campaign was launched in 2014 and more than 1,500 people from 42 countries and over 400,000 Facebook and Twitter users worldwide were involved in its creation. The slogan hit the heart and soul of the city and really sums up its character. Today it is successfully administered on different levels all the way from the city’s taxis to a strikingly painted façade of one of the city’s skyscrapers and on the nicely branded gadgets. To understand the full story, it is necessary to look deeper into the city’s history.


Post-industrial transformation
In the middle of the 19th century Glasgow was renowned for innovation and science, ranking among the world’s top industrial metropolises. At that time Glasgow had well over a million inhabitants. Immediately after the end of the Second World War, however, the industrial recession began, until by the 90s Glasgow came to be recognised as a gray industrial city that was in the middle of a painful process of transformation into a post-industrial city. The transformation of the city largely began in 1990 at the time of the European Capital of Culture project. Glasgow searched for solutions to its structural problems through culture, events and the congress industry. Much of today’s infrastructure that attracts many tourists and serves as a dynamic MICE industry magnet was built at that time.

European Capital of Culture
Glasgow holds a special place on the list of European Capitals of Culture, as they managed to carry out a successful urban regeneration that began at least a decade earlier. With the European Capital of Culture title Glasgow endeavoured to improve its image and offer a marketing platform for all of the city’s creative industries. The project gave further impetus to the cultural life of the city as we know it today – it got rid of the image of urban decay, poverty and violence, and transformed into a fashionable post-industrial city. The European Capital of Culture kick-started and dictated the processes of transformation of the city. The project stimulated the congress renaissance of the city, because it demonstrated the positive legacy effects of major events.

Congress tourism as a part of the city’s transformation
Shortly after the European Capital of Culture project in 1990 the focus turned to the revitalization of the former port along the River Clyde, where the famous architect Norman Foster designed The Scottish Exhibition and Conference Centre. When the centre opened in 1997 it was one of four in Europe with a capacity for more than 3,000 participants. The creation fulfilled in the spirit of the shipbuilding traditions of the River Clyde still amazes and inspires people with its stylish industrial design. With no exaggeration, this is definitely one of the most iconic conference centres in the world that offers superior functionality, has great acoustics and will persistently defy the passage of time. Since 2013, the new events heart of Glasgow is richer for yet another masterpiece by Norman Foster – the Hydro multipurpose hall can accommodate 12,500 visitors and has a technical, acoustic and architectural solution for a venue that is today replicated by numerous other halls. The entire area – with new hotels, such as the recently opened hotel Village – is the heart of a congress revolution and forms a kind of a congress quarter of Glasgow.


The city of cutting-edge design
Glasgow is also world renowned for good design, which has its roots in the Art Nouveau period and the time when the city was a large industrial centre, commercial port and the headquarters of the largest shipyards in the world. The Glasgow four movement was led by Charles Rennie MacKintosh, while Herbert MacNair and Margaret and Frances MacDonald also participated, the result being an elegant architectural style of clean lines with barely marked romantic images. You can see the Glasgow style in The Lighthouse and their understanding of the new style has become a kind of unspoken code of local art. The end of their era of activity was coincidentally also that of a major economic crisis (1929) that completely paralyzed Glasgow. Scotland’s Centre for Architecture Design is a popular conference centre in the heart of the city, which at the time of our visit was buzzing with various events.

Creative city and the city of music
Together with the Italian city of Bologna and Spanish city of Seville, Glasgow is the third UNESCO City of Music and has joined the UNESCO Creative Cities Network. The appointment of Glasgow as a city of music arose from the fact that every week the city hosts over 130 musical events of different variety, from contemporary to Celtic music. Many famous musicians have sprung from the city, such as the group Franz Ferdinand and the Fratellis. Most event organisers will get the best musical feel of the city at a very special venue, the former church ÒranMó, which means “great melody” or “big song”. The church, dating from 1862, was rebuilt in 2004 to be a crossover between an event space, a restaurant, a pub and a gallery of modern paintings. The space, which can barely be compared with any other venue space, demonstrates the openness of the Glasgow spirit that lets a sacred building be transformed for other purposes.

Silicon Glen
The industrial transformation is now broadly complete and most of Scotland’s modern industry is concentrated in the band from Edinburgh to Glasgow. In the middle of the 90s the IT sector experienced a real boom, which today is no longer in the best condition due to its relocation to the East. Nevertheless, over the years the city has developed a specific entrepreneurial and start-up culture, which can really be felt today in one of the specific venues, the Glasgow Science Centre. This building full of interactive experiments can be transformed into a specific venue for events, with its atrium that can accommodate up to 500 participants a popular venue for corporate functions, particularly for award shows and gala events. The list of events here is very long and includes those such as Gordon Ramsay’s Gala Dinner, the Scottish Fashion Awards and many others.

Scientific-research potential
The University of Glasgow was founded in 1451 and is the fourth oldest university in the United Kingdom. It is ranked in the top 1% of universities worldwide and is a member of the prestigious Russell Group of research-intensive UK universities. It enjoys a long-standing reputation as a research powerhouse with a focus on research excellence. It is one of the UK’s top 10 earners of research income, with total earnings over £180m per year, and has a base of over 2,000 active researchers. This database represents an enormous potential for conferences of international professional associations. Since the 1990, the Professors Emeritus joined the ambassador club, which has more than 1,700 ambassadors who last year organised 158 congresses and created £68 million in revenue.

Congress Vox Populi
Recognition as the Best UK Convention Bureau 2007 – 2016 speaks for itself – the motor of the congress revolution in Glasgow is represented by a team of 16 professionals led by Aileen Crawford. Last year they managed to bring to the city 556 conferences that were attended by 150,000 delegates. GCMB’s Convention Bureau secured an average conference revenue of just over 2.7 million every week between April 1, 2015 and March 31, 2016 to end the year on 141 million, the city’s best ever annual return. This is the result of a well-planned Ambassador programme, which last year generated 49% of all events. The programme connects 1,700 experts in a well-functioning system, which is a guarantee for the future development of Glasgow. The hotel offer with its own conference capacities and a dynamic development is also successfully keeping up with the fast pace.

The whole infrastructure, with DMCs and experienced marketing agencies, works as a well-oiled machine that constantly attracts events and new investment in hotels, bars, restaurants and the congress offer. As a whole, we can without a shadow of doubt say that Glasgow is one of the most competitive congress destinations in Europe.


29-31 March
DIA, Drug Information Association, the Scottish Exhibition & Conference Centre hosts this flagship meeting for the healthcare industry.

15-17 May
Euroheat and Power, researching new ways to look at energy demand from District Heating.

7-11 June
International Society of Architectural Historians, in its 70th year this prestigious US-based conference chooses Glasgow, a city of outstanding architectural heritage.

21-24 June
European Academy of Management, 1,000 delegate conference hosted by the University of Strathclyde.

12 – 14 July
International Conference on Europeanists, hosted by the University of Glasgow.



5 – excellent meetings destination
4 – quality meetings destination
3 – reccommendable meetings destination
2 – average meetings destination
1 – so so

A. Natural and cultural factors: 4.69

Two milestones set the development of the city on its trajectory to what it is today. The establishment of the university in the 15th century was the main reason for the city to become the centre of the Scottish Enlightenment rich with Victorian architecture in the 18th century. At the same time the expansion of the industrial revolution brought the city an unprecedented boom and these factors contributed to today’s appeal of the city which, despite the de-industrialization in the sixties, knew how to find the right path to revitalization and is now attracting tourists to the completely renewed former industrial areas.

B. General and transport infrastructure: 4.56

Glasgow is the largest city in Scotland and the third largest city in the UK. At the beginning of the millennium the city set itself an ambitious goal of becoming one of the best places to work and study and an attractive place for tourists and events. The city has become a major construction site and the results of many investments are now visible. An efficient public transport system was built in the mid-eighties and the great air accessibility is supported by the airports of Glasgow and Edinburgh, which are connected by an excellent public transport system that all works perfectly.

C. Tourist infrastructure: 4.86

There are more than 9,000 hotel rooms in Glasgow city centre and almost 18,500 in the greater metropolitan area. The average room occupancy rate that is higher than 80% confirms the need for new hotel facilities. The city is therefore soon to acquire more than 500 rooms. This high occupancy rate is the result of sound policies, winning big events (Commonwealth Games, 2014 Ryder Cup, MTV Europe Music Awards) and congress tourism. The generators of the development of tourism are in particular events and congresses, which are carefully followed by a rapid development of the hotel sector (10 new hotels were opened in the last three years).

D. Meetings infrastructure: 4.95

The long-term targeted marketing of Glasgow has provided excellent results. In the last decade the meetings industry has generated revenues of £1.2 billion. Conference attendees currently account for one in five hotel beds sold in Glasgow. This places Glasgow among the world’s leading congress destinations. On the ICCA scale Glasgow is proudly holding on to its second place, right behind London.

E. Subjective grade: 4.88

Scotland is a small country, with 4.2 million inhabitants, but compared to similar sized Central European countries its impact on the meetings industry is impressive. Just as the Scottish Enlightenment influenced the understanding of contemporary society, the modern development of Glasgow’s congress tourism is an example of how the meetings industry becomes the driving force behind the transformation of the destination. Due to its tangible and measurable results Glasgow is an example of good practice primarily for the new urban destinations of New Europe, one to which I highly recommend a visit and also recommend the implementation of Glasgow’s best practices into their forward planning.

F. Marketing buzz: 5.00

The recognition Best UK Convention Bureau 2007 – 2016 again speaks for itself. This year the Convention Bureau is celebrating 25 years of successful work. The bureau boasts 16 professionals in various fields. Glasgow has been one of the first cities to develop an ambassador programme. The city excellently uses the fresh and innovative People Make Glasgow campaign and sets a benchmark for the entire meetings industry in all areas of marketing of a congress destination.

Natural and cultural factors:4.59
General and transport infrastructure:4.18
Tourist infrastructure:4.29
Meeting infrastructure:3.90
Subjective grade:3.99
Marketing Buzz:3.94
ICCA index:1.02
Numbeo quality of life Index:4.00
Global Peace Index:3.70


Blending the creativity and energy of the city of Glasgow with the staggering beauty of Scotland’s Loch Lomond, just 40 minutes from the city centre, offers new and engaging incentive itineraries to get your clients excited. You may know Scotland, but do you know Glasgow? It’s now on the incentive map with a focus on the creative industries, music and cultural tourism. Blend your own whisky or do a brewery tour, take part in your own Highland Games, sail on Loch Lomond to a BBQ on your own island, or try speedboats along the River Clyde.


Glasgow has realised an urban transformation and has become the congress city in which people want to organise events. This is supported by excellent infrastructure and the connectivity of all players. In the field of infrastructure the King is the Scottish Exhibition & Conference Centre. It is an events hub that can’t be compared to any other venue in Europe, as it combines a comprehensive range of hotels, special venues and excellent accessibility. It is not surprising that on the ICCA scale last year, if we look at the number of participants, Glasgow surpassed destinations such as New York, Munich, Washington, Dublin and Beijing. Looking at the number of events, Glasgow is even ahead of cities such as Melbourne, Geneva, Chicago, Florence, Cape Town and Los Angeles (of 400 cities, Glasgow was ranked in 28th place in 2015). Within the UK, only London has surpassed Glasgow. Destinations in the region of New Europe can learn a lot from Glasgow, especially on how to get congress tourism among the sectors, which can transform the city and provide a breakthrough in development.



Like any modern congress destination, Glasgow also offers a number of special venues that meet the expectations of organisers with a variety of wishes. The venues range from traditional to contemporary and to some of the most unusual industrial sites.

The building of the Museum of Transport in Glasgow was designed by the architectural bureau Zaha Hadid Architects and was built in 2011. The museum is dedicated to the industrial heritage of the area. Its structure with curved walls is already reminiscent of the shipyard walls on the River Clyde. The collection of models of ships built in the shipyard tells the story of shipbuilding in Glasgow and makes a great setting for a reception or get-together.

Among the more traditional options is the Kelvingrove Art Gallery. The building was built in Spanish Baroque style in 1901. Its impressive main hall is mainly used for receptions for congress participants.

In the very centre of town we can find a popular venue of the Corinthian Club, which was once the seat of the Bank. Today it is a venue for events, a brasserie, piano bar and The Club. The Victorian architecture is an appropriate backdrop for corporate entertainment and is these days fully occupied with parties for New Year.

The more hipster of event organisers will be captivated by the Drygate brewery. Meetings in the industrial environment of the brewery with a guided degustation stunned us, also because of the beer revolution being carried out by the brewery staff.

As event organisers, we are aware of how difficult it is to organise a ‘Dine Around’ event. This is only possible in cities that can be designated as walkable cities. For any such events, however, Glasgow has the solution in the form of Merchant Square. It is a combination of bars and restaurants of different styles, which you can rent for your event. The space can accommodate from 500 to 1,500 guests and is probably the biggest Dine Around space in Europe.


HAGGIS – means nothing other than sheep’s innards seasoned with onions and other northern spices and tucked into sheep stomach before being cooked. It is a very lovely dish – well, if you don’t think too much about the raw ingredients, that is.


As of 2015, the SSE Hydro is the third-busiest music arena in the world in terms of ticket sales, handling 1,021,038 tickets.

World’s Busiest Arenas – 2015:

  • The O2 Arena, London, UK 1,819,487
  • Manchester Arena, Manchester, UK 1,130,794
  • The SSE Hydro Glasgow, UK 1,021,038
  • Madison Square Garden, NY, USA 1,013,453
  • Ziggo Dome, Amsterdam, NL 821,475


Aileen Crawford
Head of Conventions
Glasgow City Marketing Bureau
P: + 44 141 566 0817