Last night (Thursday 10th November) Visit Belfast announced its 2022 Ambassador Award winners at an awards ceremony at the Crowne Plaza Belfast. The awards recognise the efforts of Belfast and Northern Ireland’s leaders across business, medicine and academia who have helped secure major conference and event wins for the city since 2019.

Attracting business events and conferences to Northern Ireland raise the profile of the region – which in turn helps to support trade and investment, attract talent, showcase sector strengths, accelerate research and help to grow our vibrant knowledge economy.

Returning for the first year since the pandemic, the annual Ambassador Awards form part of the recently rebranded Ambassador Circle Programme. Led by Visit Belfast it is supported by Invest Northern Ireland, Tourism Northern Ireland, Queen’s University Belfast, Ulster University, ICC Belfast, Catalyst and Visit Derry.

The Ambassador Circle aims to significantly grow the number of international events hosted here by enlisting the support of industry leaders to promote Northern Ireland as a leading business and events destination. Since April, Visit Belfast and its Ambassador Circle have successfully won 33 conferences and events for Belfast which will bring over 16,000 delegates and generate an estimated £23m for the economy in the coming years.

In line with the Department for Economy’s 10X Vision and the Northern Ireland Business Tourism Strategy, the Ambassador Awards profiled the strategic events secured for the region across the main 10X Cluster areas; Life and Health Sciences, Technology including Cyber Security, Food and Drink including Agri-Tech, Advanced Manufacturing, Business, Financial and Professional related services including fintech.

From a competitive shortlist, 13 winners were recognised as Northern Ireland’s most influential Ambassadors for their efforts in promoting the region as an inspiring place to meet, visit, work, study, invest and do business and for the contribution and impact that they have made to business, medicine and research.

Ultan Power, Professor of Molecular Virology at Queen’s University Belfast, has been awarded the Ambassador Award for Outstanding Services to Society. Professor Power is a world-renowned virologist who was regularly called upon by national and international media during the COVID-19 pandemic. Professor Power was ab expert witness to the House of Lords Science and Technology Committee on the “Science of COVID-19” (2020). As part of his ambassadorial role working with Visit Belfast he has secured 3 major international conferences for the city, which include; the 12th International RSV symposium Options XI for the Control of Influenza and the World Health Organisation a Meeting of the Global Influenza Surveillance and Response System: From 70th Anniversary to 100 Years. Attracting over 1,700 delegates and worth £2m to the local economy.

The Outstanding Lifetime Achievement award was presented to Professor Mark Taylor, lead Consultant in General and Hepatobiliary Surgery at the Mater Hospital and Visiting Professor at Ulster University. Appointed by the Department of Health as an expert panel member to advise on the transformation of Health and Social Care Services across Northern Ireland published in the Bengoa Report, Mark also recently chaired the review of General Surgery in Northern Ireland. Mark is Director for Northern Ireland at the Royal College of Surgeons and played a lead role advocating for better patient outcomes and the needs of the health service during the pandemic. Mark is now an avid Ambassador for Belfast and has been instrumental in bringing over five major medical and surgical events to Northern Ireland which have generated a combined economic impact of £4.5 m

Mel Chittock, Interim CEO of Invest Northern Ireland said: “The Ambassador Circle plays a pivotal role in helping attract international business events and conferences to Northern Ireland. Events of this nature help profile our sectors and business capability to a wide international audience. This in turn can help attract inward investors and support trade partnerships. This is why Invest NI continues to support this initiative.

“Representatives across business and academia – our ambassadors – play an important role in helping identify and attract international events here. The collaboration between industry, academia, local government and partner bodies has seen us win some significant events for Northern Ireland.

“It is therefore fitting that we recognise the important contribution of these ambassadors and I would like to extend my congratulations to all those shortlisted, and to the winners, for their significant contribution to the Ambassador Circle.”

Congratulating all the winners, Gerry Lennon, Chief Executive of Visit Belfast added: “Over 80% of business events to Belfast are secured through the support of Visit Belfast’s Ambassador network as we strategically attract events to the city that not only drive much needed tourism revenue, but that also can support economic development, research and policy objectives.

It is brilliant to be back celebrating the outstanding work of our ambassadors after a three-year gap. The awards celebrate the talent of our city and region and the important contribution that our 1200 strong network of Ambassadors bring to the growing the city’ tourism economy.

Through hard work and a can-do attitude, Visit Belfast and our industry partners have seen events business in Belfast bounce back to pre-pandemic levels. By welcoming close to 30,000 delegates in 2022, it is evident that Belfast is now firmly on the map and able to compete at the highest level nationally and internationally for high profile business events. The ongoing efforts to build on Belfast’s world-class infrastructure is matched by our world-class academics, medical practitioners, and business leaders, who work as passionate advocates to help bring their global networks to Belfast. A big congratulations to everyone shortlisted tonight and a special mention to the wonderful winners, thank you for everything you do for Belfast and Northern Ireland.”

Director of Marketing at Tourism Northern Ireland, Naomi Waite added, “Business tourism is strategically important to a sustainable visitor economy in Northern Ireland as it provides midweek, year-round, high spend visitors. The Ambassadors recognised tonight encapsulate the essence of a ‘Giant Spirit’ and we are delighted their level of dedication and passion for Northern Ireland has been recognised. Congratulations to all the award winners.”

Full list of Ambassador 2022 award winners:

  • Diaspora Award sponsored by Northern Ireland Connections– Sharon Harroun Peirce
  • Best Impact and Legacy event sponsored by ICC Belfast – Sean Fitzsimmons, The Harkin Summit
  • Best Sustainable Event sponsored by Abbey Conferences – Soroptimist International – Great Britain and Ireland
  • Best National Event Sponsored by Clayton Hotel Belfast – 37th Annual British Association of Critical Care Nursing Conference 2022, Professor Bronagh Blackwood, Queen’s University
  • Best International Event sponsored by Hasting Hotels – European Association of Sport Management, Dr Paul Kitchen
  • Ambassador Award for Best Life and Health Science Event sponsored by The Regency – Academy of Pharmaceutical Sciences (APS) PharmSci 2022 – Professor Ryan Donnelly
  • Ambassador Award for Best Technology Event sponsored by AC Marriott – WoWMoM – IEEE International Symposium on a World of Wireless, Mobile and Multimedia Networks, Professor Luke Chen
  • Ambassador Award for Best Food and Drink Event sponsored by Ten Square – International Gastronomy Summit – Professor Una McMahon Beattie
  • Ambassador Award for Best Business and Professional Services Event sponsored by Central Belfast Apartments – The Law Society of Northern Ireland
  • Outstanding Lifetime achievement sponsored by the Crown Plaza Belfast – Professor Mark Taylor
  • Outstanding achievement award sponsored by Titanic Belfast – Conor Houston
  • Outstanding contribution to the Community sponsored by McKeever Hotels – The People’s Kitchen Belfast, Cllr Paul McCusker
  • Outstanding Contribution to Society Award sponsored by Hilton Hotel Belfast Winner – Professor Ultan Power.

The awards follow last month’s news that Belfast was named the ‘Best Conference Destination’ for a second consecutive year at the Conference and Incentive Travel (C&IT) Awards and Top 10 Sustainable Destination in the World.

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