With the completion of the £29.5m Belfast Waterfront extension less than 12 months away, Visit Belfast has welcomed 50 international business and conference event organisers to Belfast for a major two-day showcase event aimed at promoting the city’s credentials as an award-winning global conference, meeting and events destination.

The guests have between them the potential to bring conference and events business worth up to £100 million. Led by Visit Belfast, the showcase event was also supported by Belfast City Council, Tourism Northern Ireland, Belfast Waterfront Conference and Exhibition Centre, Tourism Ireland and more than 30 industry partners.

The city’s hotels, venues, bars, restaurants, transport providers and event management suppliers all took part in the showcase event, the first time Belfast has hosted an international business tourism delegation on this scale.

Belfast Lord Mayor, Councillor Arder Carson, said:

“With less
than a year to go until opening, Belfast City Council’s investment in
extending the Belfast Waterfront is already bearing fruit.  The
redevelopment of the Belfast Waterfront confirms our commitment to
growth in this area and its opening in 2016 will mark a tipping point in
the size and scale of the events that not only we but the city can

“Our international buyers are critical to Belfast’s
continued development as a leading, global conference city. We are
delighted to play host to such a prestigious group and we look forward
to welcoming them again.”

In the last four years, Visit Belfast has delivered 150% growth in
conference wins to the city.  These wins will welcome 206 conferences
with an estimated 81,000 delegates, staying 251,000 bed-nights and
generating £110 million for the local economy.

Visit Belfast
intends to target conferences and events that support agencies including
Queens University Belfast, Ulster University and Invest NI’s priority
research, economic and investment objectives as well as targeting a
further 250% growth in business tourism by 2020.

Tourism Minister, Jonathan Bell, added:

“Belfast’s reputation as a major international event and conference destination has grown massively with the recent successes of MTV’s European Music Awards, the World Police and Fire Games and the Giro d’Italia.

“With continuous investment in Belfast’s hospitality and conferencing sectors it is crucial that key decision makers and conference organisers get the opportunity to see these world-class developments first-hand.

“I am very pleased to see the conference and hospitality sector confident and ambitious in promoting itself on a global stage, highlighting the attractiveness of Northern Ireland as an outstanding place in which to visit, invest and do business with.”

The Belfast Waterfront expansion enables Belfast to compete for more prestigious and international profile conference and business events that will further raise the city’s reputation internationally.  Large-scale, integrated conference, exhibition and meeting spaces will allow Visit Belfast to bid for more sizeable ‘convention’ business, attracting 1,000-2,000 delegates per event, which will generate significant economic benefit for the city economy.

The city is already benefiting from the Waterfront investment with several significant national and international conferences choosing Belfast and the enhanced Belfast Waterfront including Royal College of Nursing, World Council of Credit Unions and Routes Europe events all confirmed in recent months.

Gerry Lennon, Chief Executive, Visit Belfast said:

“I’m pleased that the Belfast Showcase event was such an engaging and successful initiative, which was warmly received by everyone who attended.

“Belfast has a wealth of world class facilities, an unrivalled hospitality offering, great access and has a track record of success in delivering outstanding conferences, meetings and events.

“We look forward to further engaging with our partners, conference buyers and attending delegates in our mission to meet our ambitious plans to rapidly grow the business tourism sector and the contribution which it makes to the economy.”

Four visit programmes were held, each with unique Belfast experiences across both days, during which, clients had the opportunity to meet with key representatives from the tourism and hospitality industry.

Guests were greeted on arrival at the airport by concierge staff from Belfast hotels, and venues were specially-branded as they welcomed them to the city.

Event organisers also had the opportunity to cook with celebrity chefs, experience an indoor street market at Titanic Belfast and were treated to surprise entertainment and performances in several venues. Key clients also took part in an exclusive hard-hat tour of the fast-developing Belfast Waterfront conference and exhibition centre.

The two-day event culminated in a networking gala dinner at Belfast Waterfront, which provided event organisers a unique chance to meet with trade and industry representatives and preview the plans for the venue.


Visit Belfast is the city region’s Destination Marketing and Management Organisation (DMMO).  Its core purpose is to create and service visitors for Belfast in order to generate economic benefit for the city region creating jobs and wealth and therefore contribute to achieving the Belfast Agenda vision and the Belfast Integrated Tourism Strategy goal of £870m by 2020. (*Belfast’s Integrated Tourism Strategy 2015-20 is in a consultation period).

The aim of the Belfast Integrated Tourism Strategy 2015-20 is for Belfast to become a world class, must visit, city destination and one of the leading medium sized city destinations for leisure and business tourism in Europe. The Programme for Government’s goal is to create for Northern Ireland a £1 billion tourism industry by 2020.

Tourism is a major contributor to economic development in Northern Ireland (NI) and particularly in Belfast. In 2013 the visitor economy of Belfast was valued at £438m. This was made up of £230m from 5.5m day trips and £215m from 1.9m overnight trips.

In 2013, Belfast accounted for almost 50% of overnight tourist trip to NI and 60% of all tourist expenditure in NI. 2014 has been the best year ever with average annual hotel room occupancy at 76.1%; weekend room occupancy of 86.9% and room sales up 6.4%.

In the last four years, Visit Belfast has:

•    Delivered 150% growth in conference wins, bringing 206 conferences, 81,000 delegates, 251,000 bed-nights generating £110m for the local economy;
•    Delivered, in partnership with key stakeholders, 30 out-of-state city break campaigns securing 1.2m trips and 1.3m bed-nights generating £108m for the local economy;
•    Secured 197 cruise ships bringing 346,000 passengers and crew generating £18m for the local economy;
•    Dealt with 2m visitor enquiries generating £30m for the local economy;
•    Relocated to the state of the art Visit Belfast Welcome Centre (VBWC) utilising latest technology to meet changing customer needs;
•    Named Best UK Destination Marketing Team of the Year two years in a row;
•    Generated £290m to the local economy from VB activity delivering a return on investment of 25:1;

Belfast’s tourism credentials have been recognised in recent years and the city has received many accolades including:

•    Instagram recognised Belfast as the UK’s ‘Happiest City’ in 2014; TripAdvisor Travellers’ Choice Awards – Top 5 UK Destination 2014;
•    Nomination of Queen’s University Belfast as the top UK University for Medical Science and Pharmacy in the Sunday Times University Guide 2013;
•    Nomination as one of the world’s top destinations for 2012 by National Geographic Traveller magazine which called the city a ‘treasure’ with an ‘incredible atmosphere’;
•    In 2012, the Financial Times listed Belfast as one of the ‘Top 10 places in the world’ to hold a conference or major event.
•    In December 2014, Belfast was named the world’s most Business Friendly City of its size by the fDi intelligence division of the Financial Times. Not only was Belfast judged to be the world’s top business friendly city in the small to medium category, but it was also named in the world’s top 10 cities for Business Friendliness of any size – beating locations like Dubai and Tokyo.