Belfast conference delivers major coup for business tourism
More than 100 of the UK’s top event planners and suppliers have converged in Belfast for the 2019 Conference and Incentive Travel (C&IT) Summit and Agency Forum, the flagship annual gathering for event professionals.
Leading figures at the conference, currently under way at ICC Belfast, represent organisations controlling a combined annual spend of £2.85 billion. The event will also discuss the placing of business worth some £300 million in the meetings, incentive, conferences and exhibitions (MICE) sector of the tourism industry.
Held outside London only once previously in its 10-year history, the conference was secured by a partnership of Tourism NI, Visit Belfast, ICC Belfast, Titanic Belfast and Hastings Hotels, giving the city a major coup in the business tourism marketplace.
The conference opened on Tuesday with a Corporate Summit, bringing together senior planner and suppliers in a series of panel discussions, meetings and presentations that considered the challenges and issues facing the events industry.
The Agency Forum, running from Thursday to Friday, comprises a series of keynote speeches, networking activities, content and educational sessions, 1-2-1 meetings, huddle debates and social events, including a gala dinner at Titanic Belfast.
Some of Northern Ireland’s most outstanding tourism offerings, including Game of Thrones®, golf, food, drink and spa experiences are being promoted to delegates in an Experience Zone installed at ICC Belfast for the duration of the conference.
Tourism NI has organised a familiarisation trip for delegates to follow the closing session, showcasing tourism experiences, prospective MICE venues and the tourism opportunities in Northern Ireland for 2019 and beyond.
John McGrillen, CEO of Tourism NI said: “Business tourism is a key priority for the future growth of tourism in Northern Ireland due to the fact it can deliver higher-spending visitors and shoulder season activity, so the decision by C&IT to choose Belfast for this pivotal event is a real vote of confidence in the city. The delegates are being treated to a world-class welcome and excellent experiences and we are already receiving great feedback about Belfast as a conference destination.
“Last year tourism welcomed five million visitors, contributing £968 million to the local economy, and I am confident the business tourism sector will help us to achieve further growth as we continue to work closely with key partners and stakeholders to collectively promote Northern Ireland as a destination of choice for the meetings industry.”
Calum di Lieto, Editor C&IT Magazine said; “Bringing our flagship event to Belfast has been incredibly exciting for the C&IT team and delegates alike. The event professionals in attendance not only get a chance to network and discuss hot topics in the industry but they also get to experience the destination.
“The ICC Belfast is also doing a brilliant job of showcasing how it can facilitate events of all sizes, and with its location on the waterfront it also allows delegates to see the beauty of the city.
“Every year our events get bigger and better and hosting 2019’s in and around Belfast will certainly provide unforgettable experiences that will be difficult to follow next year.”
Chief Executive of Visit Belfast Gerry Lennon said; “Belfast is now able to compete at the highest level for conference business, bidding for more and bigger events thanks to investment in infrastructure, sales and marketing, conference venues, access and tourism product and experiences.
“This is a huge opportunity to showcase Belfast and Northern Ireland to some of the UK’s largest and most influential event planners and agencies. During their time in the city, delegates will get to experience Belfast as an events destination, as well as getting out of the city to see the wealth of tourism experiences available across Northern Ireland, and I have no doubt they will be impressed with what they see.”