Belfast is a city undergoing a radical transformation and the recent investment of £29.5 million to expand the conference facilities at Northern Ireland’s only purpose-built conference centre will be key to attracting many larger international conferences as well as showcase the city as a leading business tourism destination on the world stage.
The much anticipated extension at Belfast Waterfront is the biggest scheme to be delivered as part of Belfast City Council’s £150 million Investment Programme 2012-2015, aimed at supporting local businesses and creating employment. Belfast City Council has committed £11 million towards the development, and secured funding of £14.5 million from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and £4 million from the Northern Ireland Tourist Board (NITB).
Development plans are well under way, with the initial enabling works already started in preparation for construction commencing later this year. The new project will provide employment opportunities with up to 400 construction jobs created during the building phase. When opened, it is expected to bring £39 million to the local economy annually, effectively doubling the 2011 value of conferencing and events to the city.
There’s no denying the extension will see Belfast Waterfront grow as a key contributor to the economic and social development of the local region. Already the calendar is filling up fast as a number of national and international conferences line-up to be among the first to benefit from the new enhanced multi-purpose spaces. Belfast has been chosen to host a major European animal science conference that will bring 1,200 delegates to the city in 2016 and is expected to generate around £2.3 million for the local economy. The European Federation of Animal Science Conference will be one of the first to take place in the newly-expanded Belfast Waterfront.
Event organisers will be spoilt for choice with a total of 4,900m2 of exhibition space, a 2,000-seat auditorium, a 380-seat studio, 17 meeting rooms for ten to 200 delegates and exterior terraces with spectacular riverside views, as well as enhanced communications technology on offer. The extension, boasting extensive flat floor space, will provide organisers with a blank canvas to unleash their creative flair and create an event worth shouting about.
Belfast Waterfront has an enviable portfolio of national and international clients who have chosen the venue for its stylish and flexible space, its unrivalled city centre location and its personalised customer service. Clients include RenewableUK, the World Police and Fire Games, the Association of Surgeons in Training, the World Bar Association, the International Seed Federation, Soroptimist International and Laithwaites Wine. In 2013, the venue hosted US President Barack Obama’s keynote speech and last month, the venue was the headquarters for the 2014 Giro d’Italia Big Start, one of the world’s largest annual sporting events.
To help create a unique and memorable citywide experience, over £1 billion has been spent over the past decade transforming the city into a vibrant and inspirational meeting place for a conference or an event. Named the UK’s Best Conference and Incentive City Destination by C&IT magazine in 2013, Belfast’s developing infrastructure has seen an increase in accessibility bringing more delegates into the city, an ever-increasing range of hotels to accommodate larger events and new world-class tourist attractions to entertain visitors during their stay. Indeed Belfast Waterfront’s recently refurbished sister venue, the Ulster Hall, has proved very popular not only as an entertainment venue, but for hosting gala dinners, award presentations and drinks receptions in the elegant Grand Hall with Mulholland Grand Organ – a truly dramatic backdrop.
Its growing tourism infrastructure together with the extension at Belfast Waterfront will reaffirm the city as a must-visit business tourism destination.