IT brings in £1 billion from 19 million day visits, and pre-Covid had more than 2.46 million overnight visitors. So it’s little surprise that Glasgow’s tourism sector has made a major contribution to the city’s economy.


Exceeding targets ahead of schedule saw Glasgow grow to achieve tourism income levels of £774 million by 2019 – four years ahead of the 2023 target of £771m.
Like many cities, Glasgow has been hit hard by the loss of visitors during the pandemic, which also impacted on income from its culture and leisure offerings.

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The city’s museums and leisure services, operated by arms-length council organisation Glasgow Life, were forced to close with the loss of £38m in income for the charitable trust last year. Predicted income for 2020/21 is around £6.4m, and while Glasgow City Council has reached an agreement for it to receive a guaranteed £100m a year for the next three or four years, Glasgow Life has only been able to open 90 of its 171 venues. Without further funds, it cannot open any further sites.

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That is why The Herald is leading a campaign for A Fair Deal for Glasgow, calling for the city’s venues and treasures to be funded appropriately and for both the Scottish and UK governments to come together to deliver a new funding plan for Glasgow’s culture and leisure services.

HeraldScotland: Events such as the Merchant City Festival are drivers to bring people into GlasgowEvents such as the Merchant City Festival are drivers to bring people into Glasgow
Susan Deighan, director of city marketing and external relations for Glasgow Life, said the fundamental point is that there has got to be something for people to do to bring them into a city.
“We have got amazing museums, visitor attractions, restaurants, events, concert halls,” said Ms Deighan. “And there has to be something for people to do when they come here – you have to have the infrastructure. Glasgow is contemporary Scotland and the things people come and do reflect to the rest of the UK and the world – which then means people are more likely to come and live here, study here, work here and bring their business here, so it all comes into that kind of ecology.
“For Scotland’s four main cities, Edinburgh, Aberdeen, Dundee and Glasgow, tourism is a big part of the economy and for Glasgow in 2019 it was worth £774m. The hospitality sector employs 32,000 and 11 per cent of employment in the city is tourism-related. If you are then looking at one of your key economic sectors in the city in the same way as retail, manufacturing and services, tourism is part of the economy and features in the city’s economic strategy.”

HeraldScotland: Glasgow's story can be told through its attractionsGlasgow's story can be told through its attractions
With the flagship Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum one of the many treasures operated by Glasgow Life, Ms Deighan says having things that make people want to come to the city is vital to the  economy.
“If you look at Dundee for example,” she added, “it was amazing that the V&A opened and that was all about boosting the city’s economy, so cities invest in those amazing cultural attractions. If you are coming to Scotland and you want to do a Mackintosh trail, you come to Glasgow and you have got the Mackintosh collections in the various museums, but you can also go on the train to Dundee and see some of the Mackintosh rooms recreated.
“That story about Glasgow’s history, its heritage, its culture and the story of Scotland as a creative and cultural place is told through some of those big museums.”

HeraldScotland: Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum - the jewel in the crownKelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum - the jewel in the crown
Pre-pandemic, Glasgow could be classed as a festival and events city. All year round there were flagship events such as Celtic Connections and the Merchant City Festival as well as a full programme in concert halls and venues such as the SSE Hydro.
Ms Deighan added: “Glasgow is a Unesco city of music – that Unesco brand is really important internationally. Having our Celtic Connections and our orchestras playing in our concert halls – that real ecology of music in the city – is really important and attractive for Glasgow. Edinburgh is a Unesco city of literature, Dundee is a Unesco city of art and design. As cities we can collaborate and say, ‘look at the amazing Unesco world heritage-recognised places we have’. That is what has built the stories of the cities, and they are creative places and attractive places to visit.”
In 2017, the city tourism and visitor plan was launched by Glasgow Life along with partners VisitScotland and Scottish Enterprise. Its ambitious target was to grow the value of tourism to £771m by 2023 which was met by 2019. Four years ahead schedule it had smashed the intended target. Figures also show domestic visits to Glasgow account for 69% and international visits account for 31%, while the spend is more level at 51% and 49% respectively.

HeraldScotland: The success story of the opening of the Hydro created the Finnieston effectThe success story of the opening of the Hydro created the Finnieston effect
One of the reasons for success, says Ms Deighan, is inter-dependencies. “If you look at the SEC effect at Finnieston, by the development of the SEC and the Hydro, that is what grew that amazing, vibrant neighbourhood. If you look at what pops up around venues, it will have cafés, shops and they are the kind of things that if you are bringing people to a major cultural venue then what happens is people stay in the area. The great thing about Glasgow is the power of its neighbourhoods and the real challenge at the moment is our city centre. We have GoMA, and in terms of its numbers, it had 650,000 visitors a year pre-Covid, and is a great reason to come into the city centre – and it needs reasons to visit which are not just retail.”
As for the future, Ms Deighan believes the trend for cities is now about offering an experience.
“I think cities can provide very diverse experiences and Glasgow is one that can adapt and rebuild. We have been working on the refurbishment of the Burrell Collection. There is nothing more iconic that tells the  story of the regeneration of Glasgow. It was one of the things that was a landmark in the early 1980s, along with Glasgow’s Miles Better and the Garden Festival. We have been working on making sure we can still open the Burrell next year. That is the kind of thing we don’t want to lose and spend another 50 years building back. 
“If we want to have a healthy city economy, we need to recognise that story of Glasgow, told through its culture and venues, through its events, is the driver to bring people here.”