A former MP has defended Glasgow’s claim to being one of the top tourist destinations in the world after questions were raised about the effect of city’s social problems. Travel guide, The Lonely Planet named Glasgow as the fourth best city to visit in their ‘Best In Travel 2009′ shortlist, behind only Antwerp, Beirut and Chicago.
Colin McNicol, a retired Labour MP, represented Mount Vernon in the East End of Glasgow throughout the 1990s and is happy that the city is finally getting the recognition he believes it deserves: “Glasgow has a lot to offer tourists. It’s a brilliant city with a unique atmosphere that appeals to all sorts of people and the past twenty years have seen big improvements in social and economic terms. It’s the largest city in Scotland and is within reasonable distance from popular spots like Loch Lomond and has strong transport links to all over Scotland. The city has so much to offer, I don’t find it surprising that The Lonely Planet holds Glasgow in such high esteem.”
Glasgow was the only British city in the top ten but the reaction in the UK has been one of surprise.
Despite the backing of Mr McNicol, critics have pointed out that the city has made little progress in terms of curing its social ills. Some have questioned how Glasgow could be such an attractive holiday destination while it dwarfs even the Gaza Strip and North Korea in terms of poverty.
Although the guide praises the city centre’s shopping experience and the west end’s fashionable pubs, tourists are not encouraged to visit outside of this affluent bubble.
Christopher Harress, from Edinburgh said: “Once you get out of the city centre, it’s just all knives, guns and a generally unpleasant place to be. It’s a rough diamond, Glasgow. But nobody cares to polish it.”
Glaswegians, however, are optimistic of about the direction the city is moving in.
Their city will host the Commonwealth Games in 2014 and several ambitious projects -including a new sports stadium and the extension of the Subway – have been confirmed and tens of luxury hotels will be built to accommodate the expected boom in tourism.
This endorsement by The Lonely Planet, some believe, will help encourage people to visit the city as Glasgow attempts to move into the 21st century.
“I’m pleased that Glasgow has been recognised as one of the top places to visit.” said student, Michael Fern. “Stereotypically, the city has a bad image and anything that changes that is good.”
80 year old, Annie Stewart agreed: “You can’t run down Glasgow for the slums and the crime. Sao Paulo and Beirut can’t be any worse than us. Glasgow’s a great place to visit and live in. You have all the museums and art galleries, and the folk here are friendly: Something that can’t always be said about those from Edinburgh.”