Glasgow claims it is now the UK’s international conference capital, citing figures from the International Congress and Convention Association which ranks the city 33rd in the world for attendees at international association meetings.
Glasgow City Marketing Bureau says 20,070 people attended meetings that met the ICCA criteria last year and claims no other British city, including London, managed more than 20,000 delegates.
Chief executive of GCMB, Scott Taylor, credits a strategy of targeting the large international meetings with high numbers of delegates “that deliver real economic value for the city”.
The four biggest international conferences held in Glasgow last year – World Congress on Pain, the International Confederation of Midwives, the International Astronautical Congress and the European Sleep Research Society – all attracted record delegate numbers and were worth a total of more than £26m to the city’s economy.
Almost 6,000 people attended the World Congress on Pain held at the Scottish Exhibition and Conference Centre which also hosted the other three.
Director of Sales at the SECC, Ben Goedegebuure, says: “The SECC has a natural affinity with these large meetings and the latest ICCA rankings certainly support this. The success of the city is based on its wealth of specialist vocations that large associations can tap into to both boost membership and add relevance to their meeting. This is an important trend and one that Glasgow is clearly leading on.”
Visit London’s association sales manager Becky Graveney says: “While the official stats for international congresses for London are not as high as we would like, this in large part reflects the increased competition from all major cities and the evolution of new destinations and new congress centres. Associations themselves are also looking for new opportunities in emerging areas to increase membership and awareness.”
Graveney adds that some of the work that Visit London has been engaged in “will not have a direct impact on figures for a couple of years due to the nature of the long booking window and rotation patterns”.
She lists initiatives such as the Accommodation Charter, a new association brand (toolkit, directory, regular newsletter), the expansion of Excel London and the London 2012 Olympic Games. “Bookings are looking healthy for 2011 and beyond, so watch this space,” says Graveney.
Berlin attracted the highest number of participants of any city in the world (106,171), followed by Barcelona (81,933) and Paris (73,872).
Of an estimated to be 15,000 association meetings held on a regular basis ICCA tracks over three-quarters of them and estimates they are worth almost £7.3 billion each year.