City that’s the gateway to Scotland

Bringing the world to Glasgow is the ongoing ambition as the city’s new tourism plan aims to attract one million more visitors by 2023

By Sarah MacNeil

Click to access article as a .pdf

Attracting one million more visitors and positioning Glasgow as the ‘gateway to Scotland’ is at the heart of ambitious plans to grow the city’s tourism economy.

Glasgow’s new Tourism and Visitor Plan to 2023 sets out a clear direction for continuing to build the city’s global profile as a successful tourist destination and is focused on increasing overnight leisure tourism visits by one million over the next seven years.

Achieving a new baseline of three million overnight visits per year by 2023 will deliver an economic boost of $962m and contribute an additional 6,600 jobs in the city.

It will also help to achieve Scotland’s target of an additional $1.25bn of visitor expenditure by 2020 and align with the aims of the Glasgow City Region City Deal – an agreement between the UK Government, Scottish Government and eight Scottish local authorities across Glasgow and the wider Clyde Valley to deliver 26 regeneration and infrastructure investment projects that will significantly grow the regional economy.

To deliver this ambition, Glasgow has prioritized the positioning of its cultural tourism offer in key UK and international markets which, for the first time, is centred around six core themes: heritage; contemporary art; music; the outstanding legacy of Glasgow’s own global icon, the Art Nouveau artist, architect and designer Charles Rennie Mackintosh; major events and the city’s capability as a world-class sporting destination.

The US is Glasgow’s leading overseas tourist market, both in terms of visitor volume and spend, with American visitors making 115,000 trips to Scotland’s largest city every year; contributing nearly $50m to the local economy.

Dr Bridget McConnell, Chief Executive of Glasgow Life, says tourism is a pillar of the city’s economic strategy
Dr Bridget McConnell, Chief Executive of Glasgow Life, says tourism is a pillar of the city’s economic strategy

Dr Bridget McConnell, CBE, is the Chief Executive of Glasgow Life, the organization charged with leading the delivery of Glasgow’s tourism plan in partnership with VisitScotland, Scottish Enterprise and the city’s tourism industry.

Employing some 2,600 staff across 160 venues, Glasgow Life works on behalf of Glasgow City Council to provide opportunities for citizens and visitors to the city through culture, sport and learning.

This includes managing the city’s portfolio of nine award-winning civic museums, including flagship attractions the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum and the Riverside Museum, a former European Museum of the Year; both of which attracted over one million visitors in 2016.

Glasgow Life is also responsible for programming some of the world’s best cultural events, such as Europe’s largest winter music festival, Celtic Connections and the World Pipe Band Championships.

Dr McConnell said: “Tourism is a fundamental pillar of Glasgow’s economic strategy. We know that our biggest opportunity for growth is in leisure tourism and so, for the first time, we are focusing our efforts on promoting the key strands that underpin our cultural tourism offer, as culture is one of the defining attributes that make a city distinctive.

“At the same time, overseas visitors also come to see the best of Scotland, so we will position Glasgow as the gateway to Scotland to stimulate tourist numbers and spend more widely across the country.

“Through collaboration and innovation with city, national and industry partners, our new tourism plan will continue to build Glasgow’s global profile over the next seven years and support the creation of thousands of new jobs in the city while delivering a clear message to our priority UK and international markets that Glasgow is open for business.”

Cultural powerhouse
As one of Europe’s most vibrant and diverse destinations, Glasgow is recognized as a world-class city in which to live, work, study, invest, meet and visit. The city is Scotland’s cultural powerhouse – home to the largest cultural offer, the largest sporting infrastructure and the largest retail centre in the UK outside London.

Glasgow is also recognized as having the UK’s best Convention Bureau, responsible for securing major domestic and international conference business; is a global top five city for sporting events and, in the SSE Hydro, has one of the busiest entertainment arenas in the world.

Glasgow currently attracts just over two million tourists each year, spending more than $620m. Additionally, some 20 million day visitors contribute approximately $1.25bn to the local economy on an annual basis.

The city’s new tourism plan will also promote Glasgow as a place to study and work and capitalise on the unique characteristics of its greatest asset, its people, and its award-winning ‘People Make Glasgow’ brand, which perfectly captures the city’s distinctive identity and personality.

Dr McConnell added: “Glasgow understands the importance of its cultural heritage in positioning the city as a must-visit destination and we are currently investing more than $100m in the transformation of our cultural venues.

“This includes $44m invested in our historic Kelvin Hall to create a new centre of cultural and sporting excellence and $83m in the refurbishment of the city’s magnificent and much loved Burrell Collection – some 9,000 objects from Sir William Burrell’s rich collection, which he gifted to Glasgow in 1944. In the coming years some of these outstanding treasures will undertake an international tour, before the collection re-opens to the public in 2020.

“We’re home to world-class museums, unrivalled contemporary art and music scenes – including being the UK’s first UNESCO City of Music – an incredible built heritage and an outstanding food and drink industry, with travel bible Rough Guides having named Glasgow as one of the best places in the world to experience ‘culinary experimentation’ this year.

“We’re committed to promoting the wonderful legacy of architect and artist Charles Rennie Mackintosh and we’re a hub for cultural education – the Glasgow School of Art, for example, has produced five Turner Prize winners and 25% of all nominees since 2005, while the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, based in Glasgow, is ranked third in the world for performing arts education.

“All of which will inspire tourists and deliver compelling reasons to visit Glasgow and Scotland.”

Gateway to Scotland
Glasgow lies at the heart of major air, rail, sea and road networks, which makes it perfect as a touring base or as a first stop on a wider Scottish itinerary.

Amanda McMillan, Managing Director of Glasgow Airport, said: “A key ambition of Glasgow’s new tourism plan is to ensure that the city is recognized not only as a first-choice destination in its own right, but as the gateway to Scotland – and that’s something our international visitors have known for some time.

“Glasgow has never been better served from the US with Delta, United and American Airlines operating direct routes out of JFK, Newark and Philadelphia. Our passengers also enjoy superb connectivity through a number of hub airports in London, Reykjavik, Dublin, Amsterdam and Paris.

“Connections such as these enable Glasgow, and Scotland, to maintain and grow their global competitiveness. Not only do they play a major role in supporting our tourism industry but they also provide Scottish businesses with a choice of direct links to one of the world’s largest economies and increased connectivity through those airlines’ extensive route networks.”