Business

Two more global events cement Belfast's conference reputation

Celebrating Belfast's announcement as host of the 2018 International World Health Organisation Healthy Cities Conference are lord mayor Cllr Nuala McAlister with Dr David Steward (Belfast Healthy Cities chair) and Joan Devlin (Belfast Healthy Cities chief executive) Photo: Brian Morrison

BELFAST'S growing reputation as major international conference venue has been copper-fastened with the award of two more global showpieces.

The Word Health Organization (WHO) confirmed that its 2018 International 'Healthy Cities' conference - an event expected to attract more than 800 delegates from across the six WHO global regions - will take place in the city next October.

And the city has also fended off competition from Venice, New Orleans and Lausanne in Switzerland to host the biennial International Conference on Composite Materials (ICCM) in 2021, the biggest conference in the field of composites globally.

It will bring up to 2,000 international delegates to the city, generating an estimated £4.1m for the local tourism economy, and is coming to Ireland for the first time.

The conference win was announced in the Chinese city of X'ian after a successful pitch led by Professor Brian Falzon, Queen's University's head of the School of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering.

He said: “ICCM is the Olympics of conferences in composites research, bringing together a global community of experts in this field, which continues to have huge research and exploitation potential.”

Meanwhile Joan Devlin, chief executive of Belfast Healthy Cities, confirmed news of Belfast's intention to host the milestone WHO event following a formal announcement in Hungary.

“We have a long standing partnership with Belfast City Council and Visit Belfast and we are grateful for their co-operation in securing this event. Now we have the challenge of preparing for the event which will see more than 800 delegates coming from all across the world to the Waterfront Hall.”

Gerry Lennon, chief executive of Visit Belfast, said: “Conference tourism is an extremely important part of Belfast's tourism economy, providing year-round and mid-week business across accommodation providers, restaurants, conference venues and retailers.

"Last year, for example, some 74 conferences were hosted in Belfast, contributing around £32.5m to the local economy. Research also suggests that business visitors are likely to return to a destination as a leisure visitor at a later date, making this an important market for the city's tourism industry.

“Around 79 per cent of these conferences are won with the support of an ambassador like Professor Falzon through the Visit Belfast Ambassador Programme. This network of over 1,000 local professionals are all experts in fields ranging from agri-food to oncology, and work with Visit Belfast to secure millions of pounds of conference business for the city.”

The conference is supported by the Conference Support Fund which is financed through a partnership between Tourism NI and Belfast City Council.

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