GLASGOW, Scotland – Scotland’s biggest city expects a two-year boom in visitor numbers as officials look to reap the benefits of hosting the Commonwealth Games.
The number of conferences and events booked for 2014 has already exceeded records, with 2015 showing a similar level of interest, according to the council-funded Glasgow City Marketing Bureau (GCMB).
The positive forecast comes after hotel occupancy figures hit a five-year high in November, when 81% of rooms in Glasgow were booked – the first time this level has been achieved since 2007.
The tourism agency said the Games had acted as a catalyst for attracting visitor interest, but added this had built on the city’s reputation for shopping and as a venue for hosting major conferences built up over the past decade.
The uplift has come as a welcome boost for Glasgow as Edinburgh, its nearest commercial rival, struggles with weak demand in the tourism and retail sectors.
Gordon Matheson, the leader of Glasgow City Council and chairman of GCMB, said: “We have a stop-start economy in the UK at present but, despite this, Glasgow continues to carve out tourism growth by taking more European market share than its competitors in the conference and major events sectors.
“Since the beginning of 2012, Glasgow has been on an escalator of tourism growth; largely thanks to city and national partners working together to ensure Glasgow continues on a winning streak.”
Key developments that are beginning to drive up visitor numbers in the run-up to the city hosting the Commonwealth Games between July and August next year include the completion of the Buchanan Quarter shopping centre – opposite the existing Buchanan Galleries – followed by the opening of the 12,000-seat Scottish Hydro Arena in August.
Final planning applications for four Glasgow hotels are expected to be submitted this month with work scheduled to begin by March, ensuring their completion in time for the Games and adding a further 500 rooms to Glasgow’s total.
The opening of the Emirates Arena and Sir Chris Hoy Velodrome in October began a busy schedule of sporting events in the run-up to the Games.
The expansion of Emirates airline’s daily Glasgow-Dubai service – which went from one to two flights a day in June – has also been credited with bringing an influx of well-heeled visitors to Glasgow and the west of Scotland. The service is due to undergo a further boost this month as it introduces a second Boeing 777-300ER aircraft in place of the smaller Airbus A340-300, adding an extra 650 seats a week.
Scott Taylor, chief executive of GCMB, said of the Emirates service: “It has also had a real impact on Glasgow’s retailers, with centres such as Frasers and the Argyll Arcade recording a greater interest in tax-free shopping from overseas visitors from China and the Middle East.
“Having two flights out of Dubai – one of the world’s largest hub airports – arriving in the city everyday greatly increases Glasgow’s global connectivity, particularly through Emirates’ worldwide route network, and will generate considerable in-bound tourism in the years ahead.”
A business confidence survey published yesterday by Essential Edinburgh, a consortium of city-centre businesses, found confidence in the retail sector had improved from a trough in late 2011, but was still negative, as was confidence in the tourism sector.
Denis MacCann, co-chair of the Greater Glasgow Hotels Association, said the city has had to work harder to attract interest but that this was paying off.
He added: “Edinburgh is a premier tourist destination, but it has to work out of season to keep occupancy levels up. Glasgow has to work all 12 months of the year and GCMB has taken a very strong marketing drive to win business for the city.”