City Profile: Eye on Belfast

There are many cities around the UK that have seen dramatic regeneration over the last decade, but few have seen a boom in development quite like Belfast. The Northern Ireland capital now features top class conference and event space as well as numerous hotels, museums and first class restaurants.

Belfast is only a one-hour flight from London, with direct flights also running from Birmingham, Bristol, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester and Glasgow. By road, it is a straightforward 90-minute motorway drive up from Ireland’s capital, Dublin.

Ryanair resumed flights between the city and Gatwick in 2016, and direct flights now operate to Milan, Berlin and Iceland, with further continental flights expected to be announced in 2017.

Laurie Scott, director of business development at VisitBelfast told that Belfast is “a welcoming city, alive with creativity and innovation.”

He went on to say that Belfast “has a growing reputation for hosting large-scale events and conferences from the MTV Europe awards, Giro d’Italia and the World Police and Fire Games to the World Council of Credit Unions Congress, British Orthopaedic Association Congress and the ASGBI Conference. There has been huge growth in the city’s business tourism.

“Over one billion pounds has been invested in the city’s tourism infrastructure in the past 10 years, and the growth is still going. By the end of 2018, another 1,000 hotel rooms will be added to the supply chain with locally owned hotels like the Grand Central, and international brands like Marriott adding to the city’s portfolio.

“As a compact, walkable city, Belfast is the perfect destination for meetings, events and conferences, with excellent venues, hotels, restaurants, and visitor attractions in close proximity. What’s more, conference organisers can benefit from support from Visit Belfast in organising their event, providing free and impartial advice on all aspects of holding an event in Belfast.”

So what’s about town?

Belfast Waterfront

The city’s landmark convention centre, Belfast Waterfront, was recently revamped and now measures 7,000sqm. The facility features over 30 meeting and event spaces that can accommodate up to 5,000 delegates at any one time.

The site also boasts over 2,500sqm of flexible event space, a 2,223-seat auditorium, 660sqm riverside foyer, 360-seat studio, 20 meeting rooms for 10 to 100 delegates, and two exterior terraces with spectacular riverside views.

The venue is also directly connected with the Hilton Hotel via an indoor walkway.

Titanic Belfast

The Titanic Belfast was named the World’s Leading Tourist Attraction at the World Travel Awards in 2016. The venue offers conference and banqueting space in a variety of areas. The Titanic Suite can seat 800 for a gala dinner and features a replica of the famous staircase from the ill-fated ship from where the venue takes its name.

Merchant Hotel

The 5-star Merchant Hotel is to be found in the heart of Belfast’s bustling Cathedral Quarter. Available meeting space accommodates between 3-240 delegates. The hotel has 62 deluxe bedrooms and suites, an award-winning cocktail bar and fine-dining restaurant.

Titanic Exhibition Centre

The Titanic Exhibition Centre is Belfast’s largest dedicated exhibition space, measuring 6,000sqm. It’s the ideal place for large-scale events, with exhibition space being able to accommodate up to 3,000 visitors, or sit-down banquets for 2,500.

Hastings Europa Hotel

The renowned Hastings Europa Hotel has 18 function rooms and 272 bedrooms, which includes 85 executive rooms. Located in the heart of the city centre, it is an ideal base for visiting corporates and delegates.

The city has been billed as Europe’s leading destination for new software development projects. Kainos, one of Northern Ireland’s largest high-tech companies, held its first annual meeting at the Belfast Waterfront. By further means of consolidation, the Financial Times declared Northern Ireland as the number one destination for international cyber security investment in 2016. Adding to the portfolio of tech-conferences, the Belfast Waterfront will stage the OWASP AppSec EU conference in May 2017, which is one of the largest software security conferences in Europe.

Events agency MCI UK has enjoyed seeing Belfast progress in recent years. Karen Clarke, MCI UK’s project manager who is responsible for PCO activity in Northern Ireland told CN that “Belfast is looking towards a wonderful horizon of large-scale conferences in the coming years.”

She went on to say: “Size certainly isn’t everything in Belfast. A fantastically diverse and vibrant social scene can be found in the city’s cultural quarters (Cathedral Quarter, Titanic Quarter, Queens Quarter & Gaeltacht Quarter).

“The city’s culinary experience has thrived in recent years with award winning chefs and Michelin starred restaurants, and has something to excite everyone’s palate, not to mention the home of the World Leading Tourist Attraction, Titanic Belfast.

“Belfast is a compact city with excellent public transport links within the city and beyond. Served by two airports with direct and regular routes to the UK and Europe and just 90 minutes to Dublin, providing a gateway to the world.”

Martin Fullard

Author

Martin Fullard

Martin Fullard is the Deputy Editor at Conference News. Formerly a web editor at a national newspaper in the Middle East and motoring journalist.

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