Exclusive interview with Aileen Crawford, Head of Conventions at Glasgow City Marketing Bureau

Q: How do you assess the Glasgow meeting market today?
For many years Glasgow has been known as an ‘association’ city, with 50% of the economic impact from conferences linked to an area where the city has excellent academic strengths. Over 40% of meetings are in the field of Life Sciences, 20% in the field of science and engineering and 13% in low carbon industries. More recently, the city has seen an increase in city-wide corporate meetings hosted at the Scottish Exhibition & Conference Centre due to the flexibility and attractiveness of the venue giving a ‘campus’ feel with over 1,000 hotel rooms on-site.

Q: What do you see as crucial marketing elements to lure meeting planners?Logistics, access and infrastructure is critical information for a meeting planner and this detailed information is what a client should expect from any city convention bureau. So, if logistics is a ‘given’ how do we in Glasgow convince a meeting planner to come to our city? Our partnership approach across the city’s venues and suppliers, government and industry offers the meeting planner a team who are available to help them deliver their vision for the meeting. Finding connections and links to their areas of interest allows us to help promote the meeting to a new local audience, this in turn helps grow delegate numbers and we engage with commercial suppliers based locally who may not have exhibited at the conference in the past to support the exhibition.

Q: How is your city positioned as a meeting destination today and what are its positive attributes that are often overlooked?
According to ICCA, in 2015, Glasgow welcomed more international delegates than any other UK city, outside London. People Make Glasgow is the city brand and for our clients and delegates we know that People Make Glasgow…Connect, People Make Glasgow… Innovate and most importantly People Make Glasgow …Welcome!.

Q: How hard is it to get the message out about all that your city has to offer?
There are so many fantastic cities in the world that offer meeting facilities …but there is only one Glasgow! To reach key decision makers and encourage them to consider Glasgow rather than other larger or more well-known cities can be a challenge but when we bring clients to the city and they experience Glasgow for themselves this helps us get the message out because these clients become huge supporters and they in turn spread the message.

Q: What would you recommend to meeting planners?
Remember to contact the local Convention Bureau when you are considering a new city. A Convention Bureau exists to offer free and impartial advice and are your partner in making your event a success.

Q: Tell us something that might surprise meeting planners about your city?Glasgow hosts more international delegates than any other UK city, outside London. We have more parks (91) than any other UK city and we have Europe’s largest civic museum collection, on display across 7 of the free museums that our delegates enjoy visiting. Home to Scottish Opera, Scottish Ballet and the Royal Scottish National Orchestra, Glasgow is a cultural powerhouse of creative industries and creative people. As UNESCO City of Music, there are over 100 live music events in our city every week!


Q: What sparked your enthusiasm for meetings industry?
As the Events Officer for Glasgow Museums I had the enormous privilege of promoting the museums as venues for gala dinners and drinks receptions for the conferences coming into the city. Promoting the museum venues allowed me to meet the clients on site visits with the Convention Bureau team and I was intrigued by this conference world! When I was approached by the Head of the Convention Bureau to join their sales team, I was delighted and remain as enthusiastic for our industry now as I did then!

Q: Your best incentive idea in Glasgow?
An incentive for Glasgow should really blend the creativity and energy of the city, with the staggering beauty of Scotland’s Loch Lomond, just 40 minutes from the city centre. Glasgow 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, take the seaplane, or sail on Loch Lomond to BBQ on your own island, or try speedboats along the River Clyde. City Centre boutique hotels, such as One Devonshire Gardens, Blythswood Square or Dakota partnered with resort hotels such as Cameron House on Loch London, Blair Castle or Trump Turnberry.

Q: On a personal note, what would be your ideal event to host in Glasgow?
An ideal event for me would be anything that involved going on a site visit! There is nothing better than getting out and about around the venues and meeting the teams and reminding myself what a great city and great team we have.

Q: To change the MICE world you need to?
Get involved! Think about joining a professional body that fits with your role and use the association to meet your peers. Remember that the Millennials are coming and consider how best to engage and include these leaders of the future in your plans. Embrace technology and consider how Meeting Design could support your networking aims.

About Aileen Crawford, Head of Conventions, Glasgow City Marketing Bureau (GCMB)

Aileen has worked in the meetings industry for 20 years. In 2011, she took over the position as Head of the Conventions team, following five years as Deputy. The team focuses on research, conference sales, accommodation bookings and sales/client support to position Glasgow as one of the best cities in the world to host a meeting. In 2016 GCMB was voted ‘Best UK Convention Bureau’ for a record-breaking 10 years by readers of Meetings & Incentive Travel.

The Conventions team is targeted with delivering economic impact to Glasgow through conference sales by working closely with key stakeholders, major venues, such as the Scottish Exhibition & Conference Centre and the city’s academic community.

Currently on the Board of ICCA UK & Ireland, the Chair of the Business Tourism Conference Scotland 2016 and on the Board of the Association of British Professional Conference Organisers (ABPCO), Aileen is involved in best practice and meeting industry collaboration in the UK and internationally.