Case Study

Glasgow Life: Boosting Tourism Through Data Insights

Posted on June 14, 2017

Glasgow Life delivers culture, sport and learning services to both Glasgow citizens and visitors on behalf of Glasgow City Council.

Some 2,600 staff and 2,200 volunteers work across 160 Glasgow Life venues. Last year, more than 18 million attendances were recorded at Glasgow Life-led venues, events and festivals – up more than one third since 2007. Glasgow Life helped to deliver the 2014 Commonwealth Games, the 2015 World Gymnastics Championships and the 2015 IPC Swimming World Championships. Glasgow Life has responsibility for:

  • Managing nine award-winning civic museums, including Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, the Riverside Museum and the Burrell Collection as well as the Kelvin Hall;
  • The Glasgow Club – Scotland’s largest health and fitness network;
  • The Mitchell Library and 32 community libraries;
  • Programming world-class music in venues such as the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall, art and exhibitions at Tramway and a number of cultural events;
  • Leading the delivery of Glasgow’s Tourism and Visitor Plan to 2023;
  • Managing the city’s destination marketing and PEOPLE MAKE GLASGOW brand;
  • Managing the Glasgow Convention Bureau, which attracts more than 500 conferences each year.

Tourism is a key priority sector for Glasgow and driver of economic growth, demonstrated by:

  • A 32% increase in tourism jobs since 2011
  • The city’s tourism industry employs almost 32,000 people, representing 19% of all jobs in Scottish tourism. (Oxford Economics 2015)
  • Visitor expenditure amounts, on average, to £500m per year
  • Every additional £50k spent by visitors creates a new sustainable job according to Oxford Economics


The tourism opportunity

To gain further insight into behaviours and to boost tourism, Glasgow Life sought to enhance its data analysis. Its aim was to predict future tourist trends and activities, as well as inform strategic decision-making. It wanted to be proactive rather than reactive. Ultimately, Glasgow Life was interested in answering key questions:

1) Who has visited Glasgow?

2) Who is currently visiting Glasgow?

3) Who is going to visit Glasgow?

The idea was to help Glasgow gather and use more dynamic, live information to enable businesses to respond more quickly to a changing marketplace and deliver a personalised service to tourists and visitors. The new insights would help with the complex process of identifying visitors to Glasgow and Scotland before they arrive and identifying meaningful engagement opportunities (understanding who is coming to Glasgow and why).

The solution:

As such Glasgow Life sought to develop a predictive analytics capability but appreciated it did not hold the expertise to develop it internally, given a lack of data science expertise and knowledge.

It approached The Data Lab to help it access that relevant expertise within an academic department and usefully engage with tourism data-focused companies – such as Skyscanner and Lynn Jones Research, a source of global hotel data analytics and marketplace insights. It sought to build on its own, existing datasets, known as the ‘Busyness Index’, while capitalising on the value of these relevant external datasets.

Previously, Glasgow relied on annual visitor statistics from the Office for National Statistics (IPS) and Great Britain Tourism Survey, plus visitor surveys. Notably, this data collection had a number of identified issues, including sample size, methodology, lag time and access to fuller datasets to complete the analysis.

This project focused on the development of a predictive analytics module as part of Glasgow City Council’s Transforming Glasgow programme.

With funding support from The Data Lab, and access to Glasgow City Council’s Microsoft Azure cloud computing environment, academics from University of Strathclyde explored different approaches to predicting tourism-related factors from Skyscanner search logs, based on different algorithms and varying prediction windows.

The Data Lab facilitated the project to access the expertise of Dr John Wilson, a senior lecturer focused on databases and Semantic Web technologies who also has experience in exploiting his research in efficient data representations. Dr Mark Dunlop, a specialist in human computer interaction (HCI) and internet programming technologies, provided additional input. Finally, Dr Andreas Komninos, who has experience in delivering a number of tourism data projects focused on the analysis of sensor and social media data, with additional expertise in data visualisation and design, was the main project resource.

The resulting prediction model is based on neural net technology, and forecasts the volume of future room bookings using just Skyscanner search data for the destination. The prediction model can be readily transformed into a visualisation and could help provide insights and benefits to Glasgow City Council and the wider tourism industry such as hoteliers, retailers, Glasgow Airport and infrastructure investors as well.

The application can be accessed and used by other Scottish cities interested in developing similar predictive capabilities.

The project will facilitate:

  • The ability to track changes in tourism visits to the city and provide more insight into the return on investment (ROI) of marketing efforts
  • Greater visibility of passenger numbers arriving at Glasgow and whether routes are working, which will support campaigns to develop new route developments
  • Development of new partnerships with data vendors such as Skyscanner, Glasgow Airport and LJ Research, whichprovides insights from hospitality and tourism market research
  • Ability to showcase Glasgow as an exemplar in data management and analytics nationally;
  • Ability to deliver a novel and innovative resource to the tourism marketing departments of other cities, notably Marketing Edinburgh who supported the project. Through the support of organisations such as Scottish Enterprise and VisitScotland, this partnership could be extended across Scotland.
  • Support for Skyscanner with a case study to engage with Destination Market Organisations across the world in relation to data analysis;

By combining existing and new datasets, the project will focus on a machine learning application capable of delivering accurate insight into the numbers and characteristics of tourists to Glasgow. This will be situated on Glasgow City Council’s Future Cities Demonstrator ICT platform, which already hosts the ‘Busyness Index’ datasets and also provides a connected visualisation capability.

This project is part of a wider data strategy which will see a number of internal projects developed, including the development of a second-generation Destination Dashboard, a prototype currently operating using its own historical tourism data. This will enable Glasgow Life and other public and private sector stakeholders to collect, analyse and share insight and intelligence more effectively.

Key outcomes of the project

Glasgow aims to use this data focused strategy to boost annual tourism expenditure to £771m and grow the number of overnight visitors by one million (to three million) by 2023. The project enables hotel occupancy in Glasgow and Edinburgh to be predicted with up to 90% accuracy. The project also demonstrated a basis for mapping the volume of searches for flights from origin cities across the world. This has the potential to help identify marketing opportunities, especially where there is no direct route into Scotland.

The generation of useful insights into future visitors to the city of Glasgow can be turned into useful management information. From an operational perspective, this will allow Glasgow Life to optimise service delivery and the efficient use of resources.

What does the future look like

From a tourism economy perspective, the new insights will help with the complex process of identifying and converting more visitors to Glasgow and Scotland. This will identify meaningful marketing and engagement opportunities, and in turn employment associated with this growth would amount to an additional 6,600 jobs for the city by 2023.

This project aims to influence how Glasgow Life and Glasgow City Council engage, participate, collaborate and shape the future of Glasgow’s tourism and visitor economy.