THERE have been renal specialists and science fiction fanatics, credit union experts and engineers, quantum physicists and psychologists.
They have come from every continent and, unlike tourists, consistently at all times of the year. Hundreds of thousands of delegates attending conferences in Glasgow in the last six years have contributed £827m to the city's economy, providing a lifeline to dozens of small businesses during the recession, particularly in the hotel and restaurant sector.
So it is excellent news that the bookings continue to flood in, so much so that Glasgow now outperforms even London as a conference destination.
Outperforming London: that is a thought to savour. With the British economy still dragging itself out of the doldrums, Glasgow's buoyant conference business shines like a beacon of hope, showing what can be achieved with a good strategy, a committed team and a strong product, the welcoming city of Glasgow itself. Warm congratulations must go to all those involved in promoting the city as a conference destination, including Glasgow Hotels Association, its Restaurant Association, universities and the SECC, but particularly Glasgow City Marketing Bureau (GCMB).
Last month, GCMB won the title of UK's Best Convention Bureau for the sixth time, an achievement that is all the more remarkable given that it was only established seven years ago. Set up to market the city to businesses, tourists, potential students and investors, it has more than proven its worth.
The challenge of success, however, is to maintain it. Glasgow is on the radar of professional conference organisers the world over. Now the aim must be to maintain that profile and, if possible, climb still higher.
The city already has a great deal that money can't buy, including the famous friendliness of its people and the vibrancy of its culture and nightlife. However, maintaining and improving infrastructure and transport links, such as flights to hub destinations like Frankfurt, will be vital to Glasgow's continuing success as a conference destination. The city must also be able to continue offering good value for money to conference organisers to beat off competition from other up-and-coming provincial British destinations hungry for a bigger slice of the market, such as Newcastle.
Today, though, is a day for much-deserved congratulations and also an opportunity for other Scottish cities to take stock. The City of Edinburgh also benefits from high visibility as a conference destination and is in the process of expanding its conference centre. Aberdeen has shown the value of exploiting its status as Europe's energy city, having been the destination in recent years for, among others, the All Energy UK conference, the country's largest renewable energy event.
It is vital that all Scotland's cities make the most of such opportunities. Glasgow has shown what is possible, even in difficult times.
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