Be inspired and impressed by Northern Ireland

Multi billion pounds of investment over the last decade is inspiring the growth of business and leisure tourism to Belfast. And the last year has been arguably the most inspirational of these years with 31 per cent more hotel rooms, the culmination of £500m worth of investment, new air and sea services and the reopening of landmark buildings such as the Ulster Hall, Belfast City Hall and the Ulster Museum, delivering a perfect mix of venues, services and products for the events and meetings buyer.
Despite the economic doom and gloom portrayed across the world, Belfast is braving the storm, and is experiencing a renaissance that is bringing visitors in their millions. Business and conference tourism is playing its part in the city’s renaissance too, contributing over 40 per cent to Belfast’s tourism economy.
Belfast is an accommodating city with a dizzying array of hotels, B&B’s, Guesthouses, self catering, hostels and academic choices of places to stay; the Belfast welcome is something     to be experienced at least once in your life.
Belfast is a compact city and getting around couldn’t be easier; all amenities are within less than 30 minutes from the city centre; visitor attractions are close at hand; pubs and night clubs are just a taxi ride away, if you don’t fancy the short walk; restaurants are on your doorstep. Hire a bicycle; take a jog in the park or just walk, Belfast has been named the safest city in Europe.
Why not stay on for an extra night or two after your conference has ended? Belfast has been rated one of Europe’s top city break destinations and it is the ‘gateway’ to Northern Ireland; stay on and visit the Giant’s Causeway, designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the 7 Wonder’s of the World. It is also located in one of the most stunningly beautiful parts of the world with the Nine Glens of Antrim close by and Bushmills Distillery, the oldest distillery in the world, just around the corner.

The venues
Belfast now welcomes conventions and events of varying sizes and scale hosted in purpose built venues such as the Waterfront Hall, Odyssey, the universities, business hotels and to the more unusual venues, like the Crumlin Road Gaol and the Ulster Folk & Transport Museum. The reopening of both the City Hall and Ulster Museum after £29m refurbishment projects brings further choice to those looking at holding an event or meeting in Belfast.
Claire Bradshaw, Belfast Convention Bureau manager confirms: “Since the regeneration of Belfast began we have seen the opening of some of the finest conference and meeting facilities in these islands. What’s exciting is that the confidence in investing in the conference and events product isn’t waning.
“International investment from the hospitality sector has seen Ibis, Park Inn and Premier Inn expand Belfast’s hotel portfolio, particularly within the mid-range market, adding 31 per cent more rooms available to the consumer within a year. More choice is bringing added competition amongst the city’s operators which is benefiting the buyer.”
This investment hasn’t gone unnoticed with numerous global accolades such as the Waterfront Hall being runner up as the best congress centre in the World in 2002, Belfast being listed in the top 12 destinations to visit in 2009 by US travel guide Frommers’ (the only UK and Irish city to be listed) and Lonely Planet urging people to get here early before the rest of the world arrives.

Improved access
As a city on the rise, air access to Belfast has greatly improved too – hard to believe that it was less than 10 years ago that easyJet launched its Amsterdam-Belfast service. Belfast now has regular flights from airports across the UK and Europe and now to North America with all the key airlines both business and low-cost. Continued investment in the Irish sea routes from Scotland and England provide an alternative method of transport to Northern Ireland.
Belfast’s diverse history and culture makes Belfast a unique destination – political history, Titanic and maritime history mixed with an evolving music and arts scene provide an eclectic mix without forgetting the warmth of the welcome that the city is famed for delivers a long lasting experience for delegates. The turbulent times, ironically perhaps, paid dividends in the genuine efforts that the hospitality and meetings industry have invested in getting Belfast on the tourism map.
“Belfast’s conference venues and support services are known to work that extra bit harder in delivering a successful meeting or event. High profile international organisations, such as the International Seed Federation, the Inner Wheels Clubs of GB and Ireland have made Belfast their destination of choice to realise the high regard in which the city is held. In Belfast we understand the value of time; we know the necessity of commitment and we deliver on both. Add these two criteria to a dedication to standards and you have the inspirational business solution,” says Claire.

Future ventures
Confidence in Belfast’s future isn’t waning either and it is very much focused in areas that the city’s heritage is steeped: the Cathedral and Titanic Quarters. Luxury hotels and vibrant restaurants are already sitting side by side with the eclectic arts and music scene around St Anne’s Cathedral and in 2012 the Metropolitan Art Centre will be the cherry on the cake, offering inspiring and versatile cultural and arts space which will offer yet more dynamic space for the events and meetings sector. 2012 will see another iconic building completed as the Titanic Signature visitor attraction will open to the public. Marking the centenary of the launch of the fateful liner, the £97m project will create a high profile cultural and education facility that will be truly World-class and of the 21st century resonating the inspirational workmanship of Belfast ship-builders at a time when they were at the pinnacle of World engineering and ship-building. The excitement is already building, quite literally around the project, as up to four hotels are planned to open bringing over 500 more rooms to the city, one of which will housed in the Drawing Offices where the Titanic was designed.
It’s an inspirational time to be involved in bringing events and meeting to Belfast over the next few years and the Belfast Visitor and Convention Bureau are eager to get the message out there and provide a range of service to bring business to the city. Claire continues: “We are continually looking at value added services to attract conference and meetings business to Belfast – we’re essentially here to help. The services of the Bureau are free and include information gathering; the organisation of site inspections; venue and programme suggestions, the preparation of bid documents; literature for delegate packs; and a free on-line accommodation booking service.
“2010, will see the launch of a new package of assistance, aimed at specifically attracting events and meetings between 2011 and 2013. This will be rolled out with in the UK from June to September this year.”
The Belfast Convention Bureau is a non-profit making organisation. It is the official business tourism planning and organising body for Belfast. It offers free and impartial advice to organisers considering holding an event in Belfast and has a team of professionals ready for your call to action and our services will cost you nothing more than your time and your participation.
The Bureau has the local knowledge and expertise that can help you plan a memorable and successful event. The team can assist you in putting a bid together if that is one of your tasks; assist you with your proposal and support you in making your presentation.

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