Magazine article Marketing

Emerald Isle Is a Clear Jewel

Magazine article Marketing

Emerald Isle Is a Clear Jewel

Article excerpt

Business is booming at the fledgling Northern Ireland Conference Bureau. And Southern Ireland, too, has a positive story to tell.

Conference organisers always say they want "something new". Better still, somewhere that's accessible, fun, value for money and able to handle their event without fuss. Well, how about Northern Ireland? Not surprisingly, the ceasefire means the fledgling Northern Ireland Conference Bureau, set up in February 1994, is rushed off its feet.

"Business is exceptionally buoyant," says bureau manager Michael McCormick. "It has been encouraging to see that delegate numbers for several conferences booked before the ceasefire have increased in the past few weeks. We had one that was going to bring around 400 delegates, which has gone up to 700.

"We've always been able to convince the organisers - the problem was carrying it through to the delegates themselves. People had a perception in their mind of what it would be like here. In fact, it's been pretty good for six months and the change has been slow and steady."

The bureau's function is to promote Northern Ireland as a conference and incentive destination to the overseas market. Targets include mainland Europe, the US and Australia as well as the UK. Belfast has enjoyed huge investment throughout the 90s, with [pounds]130m already beginning to show in new hotels and infrastructure projects and a further [pounds]260m of EC money earmarked for development.

The biggest impact on the conference market will undoubtedly be the [pounds]29m Belfast Conference Centre and Concert Hall, a state-of-the-art centre on the waterfront and part of the city's Langanbank Development Scheme, the main auditorium will seat 2235. Bigger still is the existing King's Hall Exhibition and Conference Centre, which takes up to 5000.

The best thing about Belfast for visitors is its compact size, which means the shopping, dining and nightlife of a big city with country estates, golf, horse riding, fishing and hiking literally minutes away. Smaller conference groups can use country houses like Galgorm Manor, with 23 rooms, a beautiful estate on the River Maine near Ballymena. And for those based in the city, there is plenty within easy reach: the spectacular basalt columns of the Giant's Causeway; Old Bushmills, the world's oldest whiskey distillery; Tyrone Crystal; and the Linen Museum in Lisburn. …

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