Belfast conferences will provide £45m in economic benefits

Gerry Lennon, Visit Belfast and Suzanne Wylie, Belfast City Council are joined by colleagues from Visit Belfast and representatives from Tourism Northern Ireland, Diageo NI, Translink, Value Cabs, Titanic Belfast, Crumlin Road Gaol, Belfast Waterfront and Belfast International Airport

CONFERENCES worth around £45 million have been secured for Belfast over the past year, the body that promotes tourism for the city has said.

Visit Belfast claims the past 12 months had been the "best ever" for the city in terms of attracting events.

The organisation said planned conference would bring 30,000 delegates to Belfast over the next few years and generate more than 100,000 bed-nights for the hotel sector.

Among major events coming to Belfast is the Royal College of Nursing's annual congress which will bring 5,000 delegates to the city in 2018.

It will be the nurses' largest ever congress and set over five days is expected to bring £5m in economic benefit for the city.

Conference tourism is considered particularly important because it brings people into the city mid-week and the business travellers and conference delegates attracted are typically higher-spending than the average leisure tourist.

Belfast City Council chief executive Suzanne Wylie said business tourism in the city had "gone from strength to strength in recent years, and the city now competes with the very best".

At the centre of Belfast's new conference offering is the newly extended Waterfront which is set to open later in the spring.

The 43,000 sq ft extension will double the size of the available conference space at the venue.

Ms Wylie described it as "a watershed year for Belfast, with the re-opening of the Belfast Waterfront allowing us to welcome bigger conferences than ever before".

“Tourism is an extremely important driver for Belfast's overall economy, and we are committed to doubling the value of this sector to £870m by 2020. The work of Visit Belfast and the wider tourism industry is to be commended," she said.

Head of Visit Belfast Gerry Lennon said the success in attracting conferences was "something that everyone involved in tourism can be proud of - it really is a team effort".

"Visit Belfast has continually invested in the promotion of Belfast as a vibrant conference and business tourism destination, proactively selling the city in the important GB, North American and European markets, but without a strong product offering across the sector, from our partners in conference venues, hotels, transport provision and restaurants and bars, as well as improvement in our air access, and commitment from the government to growing tourism, this £45m could not have been achieved," he said.

“2015/16 was the biggest year yet for conference tourism in Belfast, but given that we have seen steady growth over the last number of years, coupled with continued investment in conference venues and hotel accommodation, we expect this growth to continue in the years ahead.”

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