Conference tourism is big business in Belfast. In the last five years, Visit Belfast, with Belfast Waterfront and city partners, has attracted conferences bringing 135,000 delegates and generating £186 million to the economy. With the opening of Belfast Waterfront’s new 7,000m2 conference facility at the heart of the city’s proposition, business tourism can only continue to grow.
While this is undoubtedly down to an increasing portfolio of products and hard work by Belfast’s hospitality sector, what many don’t know is that some 79 per cent are secured with the help of a local ambassador.
Visit Belfast’s Ambassador Programme provides a framework where local professionals bid for conferences with the support of Visit Belfast. From agri-food to oncology, these experts in their fields have helped Belfast secure millions of pounds of business.
Gerry Lennon, Visit Belfast’s Chief Executive says: “Belfast has everything organisers need for a conference – easy, affordable access, a wide range of hotels and conference venues including the new Belfast Waterfront, and expertise and support from ourselves and funding partners Tourism NI and Belfast City Council.
“The Belfast Ambassador Programme enables us to work with local experts to bring national and international conferences here. Not only does this have economic benefits for the city, but it helps shine a light on the excellent work carried out here across many sectors like aerospace, cancer research and cyber-security.”
In 2016, with the extension to the Belfast Waterfront, conference tourism to Belfast took a big leap forward. Now capable of accommodating over 2,000 delegates, the venue has been a real game changer for Belfast.
Catherine Toolan, Managing Director of Belfast Waterfront and Ulster Hall Ltd, explains: “Our new conference, exhibition and entertainment facility boasts the perfect mix of clear-span space and break-out rooms that enable us to cater for a much wider range of large-scale events. In essence, the state-of-the-art facility has put Belfast back on the radar of many major global event planners. In our first year of opening we generated over 50,000 delegate nights, contributing a return of £21 million to the city. An impressive 76 per cent of the conferences last year were newcomers to our stunning riverside facility.”
Since reopening, Belfast Waterfront has hosted a range of conferences including the Association of Surgeons in Great Britain and Ireland Annual International Surgical Congress, the British Orthopaedic Association Annual Congress and the 67th Annual Meeting of the European Federation of Animal Science which collectively brought more than 4,000 delegates to the city – all secured with the help of a local ambassador.
Toolan continues: “As a university city and home to world leading research centres, we owe much of our success to local ambassadors. Their commitment is invaluable in attracting conferences and Belfast Waterfront, in partnership with Visit Belfast, look forward to supporting many more ambassadors in the future.”
Becoming a Belfast Ambassador gives you the chance to develop your own career, increase your profile within your industry, establish new relationships, and showcase your work to your peers. Visit Belfast is on hand to support you every step of the way.
Norville Connolly, who brought the Bar Leaders Conference and Mid-Year Meeting to Belfast this year, says: “Despite intense competition from other European cities, Belfast was chosen to host the 2017 conference. Attracting the largest number of international delegates for very many years, there was a great deal of satisfaction in Belfast as host city, Belfast Waterfront as the venue, and the many locations where social events took place, including Belfast City Hall.
“Visit Belfast provided top-class visitor information for the delegates and a well-resourced back-up service. Everyone played their part to bring this conference to Belfast and ensured it was a memorable success.”
Interested in becoming a Belfast Ambassador?
Contact Sheila Geary, Ambassador Programme Manager at Visit Belfast:
T: 028 9023 9026