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£1m Conference Support Scheme for tourism industry is welcomed

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Date: 17 Sep 2021

Category: Tourism

Eimear Callaghan, Economy Minister Gordon Lyons, Deputy Lord Mayor Alderman Tom Haire, Odhran Dunne and Rachael McGuickin outside the ICC Belfast.

A £1m conference support scheme for the tourism industry has been launched to provide an attractive incentive for conference organisers to bring their events to Northern Ireland.

Launched in partnership with Tourism NI, Visit Belfast, Visit Derry, Belfast City Council and Derry and Strabane District Council, the scheme is part of the Tourism Recovery Action Plan and is aimed at securing business events for Northern Ireland.

The Conference Support Scheme was first established in 2010 and has delivered over one hundred conferences to date, generating an economic impact of £102 million. Following the recent decision by Executive to allow conferences and exhibitions to resume, the scheme has been revised and re-launched to help support the recovery of the tourism industry.

Through the scheme conference organisers will receive £50 for each out of state delegate that visits Northern Ireland.

Welcoming the scheme, Deputy Lord Mayor of Belfast Alderman Tom Haire said: “Investment in world-class venues, attractions, experiences and conference services, including the £30m upgrade and extension to ICC Belfast, over the last five years has made Belfast and Northern Ireland a destination of choice for conference organisers around the world. COVID-19 brought the conference and events industry to standstill, so this intervention comes at an important time to rebuild this important pillar of our visitor economy.”

Economy Minister Gordon Lyons said: “In 2019 conferences in Northern Ireland delivered £27.5m to the local economy and brought a wide range of benefits including jobs, inward investment and knowledge exchange. Northern Ireland had captured the attention of the global travel industry with awards from Lonely Planet to National Geographic, and following The Open in Portrush the global conference and events industry was poised to invest.

"This scheme will provide much needed support for the conference and events sector as it contributes to rebuilding the tourism economy and we very much look forward to welcoming conference delegates back to our vibrant towns and cities.”

Rachael McGuickin, Visit Belfast’s Director of Business Development added: “In partnership with venues and accommodation providers right across the city, Visit Belfast has worked hard throughout the pandemic in not only safeguarding existing event bookings but also targeting new business for the years ahead. 

"Over the last 18 months, we have successfully retained 103 events and won 15 new events that will deliver a combined £81m by 2028, clearly demonstrating the high economic impact and importance of the sector to the city economy.

"As we continue to rebuild the city‘s visitor economy, the new Conference Support Scheme will help set Belfast and Northern Ireland apart from its competitors, help us secure new business for the region and support our venues, conference organisers, hotels and the wider supply chain who have been so severely impacted by COVID-19.”

Odhran Dunne, Chief Executive of Visit Derry commented: “In 2019, Derry hosted its largest ever conference and the revised Conference Support Scheme will provide a clear and compelling reason to choose the city and build on that legacy. The scheme will stimulate demand in the business events sector as we look forward to welcoming both national and international delegates to our historic Walled City in the years ahead.”

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