Belfast now recognised as the world’s best conference and events destination at the annual C&IT Awards gala for five out of the last six years

Belfast has been officially named the world’s best conference destination for a third year at the Conference & Incentive Travel (C&IT) awards in London, securing a record-breaking position that underlines the city’s strengths as a major international draw for business delegates and event organisers.

ICC Belfast, Northern Ireland’s only purpose-built international convention centre, was also a winner in the ‘Best Venue – UK’ category, the shortlist for which featured London’s ExCel and ICC Birmingham.

The annual C&IT Awards are the biggest, most influential and prestigious awards in the Meetings, Incentive, Conference and Events (MICE) sector worldwide. Chosen by a diverse panel of industry experts, they recognise outstanding achievements, innovation and success across a variety of categories.‘Best Destination’ and ‘Best Venue’ are among the most sought after and competitive awards, receiving entries from destinations and convention centres across the globe.

This year’s Best Conference Destination 2023 award recognises Visit Belfast and the city’s tourism industry for its consistent, collaborative efforts to meet and exceed the expectations of conference and event organisers to deliver a world class experience for thousands of delegates every year.

Visit Belfast is the official destination marketing and management organisation for the Belfast City Region, dedicated to promoting Belfast as a tourist destination for business, leisure and cruise visitors. Tourism NI, Invest NI and Belfast City Council are also key supporters and funders of business tourism in Belfast and Northern Ireland.

For ICC Belfast, its newest award win for ‘Best Venue – UK’ recognises its contribution to the city’s thriving business conference sector as well as how the team has successfully delivered on its values as a venue that celebrates diversity and champions inclusivity.

In a separate development, Visit Belfast were also awarded ‘UK Best Destination Team of the Year’ at the Meetings Industry Association (MIA) Awards 2023, securing the top industry title in a highly competitive shortlist that included Conference Leeds, Meet in Wales, NewcastleGateshead Convention Bureau and Meet Devon South West England.

Welcoming Belfast’s three major international wins, Lord Mayor of Belfast, Cllr Ryan Murphy, said:

“These award wins represent a record-breaking outcome for the city, for Visit Belfast and ICC Belfast which champions the huge, collaborative effort that goes into making Belfast a tourism leader on the global stage. Yet again, Team Belfast has proven its award-winning abilities to go up against the rest of the world and go straight to the top and I’m delighted and grateful to everyone who contributed to this remarkable success.

“Despite the challenges of recent years, Belfast continues to punch well above its weight in a highly competitive market, demonstrating its strengths, a team spirt and a prized warm welcome that makes more and more people want to come back. I am very proud of what we have achieved and congratulations to everyone involved.”

Earlier this year, Visit Belfast revealed its plans are on track to deliver around £120m to the local economy this year through its sales, marketing and visitor servicing activity, marking a fresh growth milestone in the organisation’s almost 25-year history and looking ahead, Belfast is set to welcome 147 conferences and 55,000 delegates, over the next three years, amounting to a spend of around £75 million.

Julia Corkey, Chief Executive of ICC Belfast | Waterfront Hall | Ulster Hall, said:

“The passion and dedication of our world-class team are what made this award win possible. The timing could not have been better, as just last week we proudly played our part in facilitating global collaboration when we showcased the very best that Northern Ireland had to offer delegates attending the One Young World 2023 Summit.

Our commitment to sustainable growth and innovation across the organisation means that we continually strive to exceed clients’ expectations. The business events industry is highly competitive, so for our efforts to be recognised as industry leading is an incredible achievement. We are delighted to celebrate with all of our partners throughout the city and extend our sincere congratulations to Visit Belfast on their deserved recognition as Best Conference Destination.”

Acknowledging the importance of both awards for Belfast’s tourism economy, Visit Belfast’s Director of Business Development, Sustainability and Transformation, Rachael McGuickin, said investing in business tourism sales and marketing is critical as it provides mid-week business right throughout the year.

“Generating around £40 million of direct expenditure for the local economy, business events are a major part of the city’s tourism economy, delivering high-spending visitors for local venues, hotels, bars, restaurants, transport providers and across events supply chain. They’re a catalyst for growth and integral to the investment supported and generated in Belfast and beyond while also contributing to the city and Northern Ireland’s growing reputation for innovation, academic and business success.

Our most recent award success, both as a destination and as a team, is important in ensuring Belfast is always front of mind as a leading destination for national and international events and we look forward to continuing to work closely with our partners in building on our achievements and adding even more new and sustainable ways to ensure our city not only appeals but inspires.”

A New Integrated Strategy for Business Events in Northern Ireland was launched in March last year which seeks to double the number of international conferences hosted annually and attract three times the number of delegates from the UK and Ireland by 2030.

Nikki Paterson, Business Solutions Manager, Northern Ireland, said:

“Recognition of our unique and competitive strengths in attracting business events and delegates to Belfast and Northern Ireland play an important role in promoting our exciting offer across the world, driving awareness and impact in a highly competitive marketplace. We look forward to continuing to work with all our partners to ensure that we can continue to drive the direct economic impact of this pivotal tourism sector.”