Famous for their music, culture and craic, EN heads to Ireland and Northern Ireland to discover how their cities are providing the exhibition and events industry with their Irish charm.
Governed by the sea, but moulded by its history and people, the Emerald Isle is full of legends, fairy tales and folklore.
Stretching back beyond the age of the Celts and Vikings, and rolling hill landscapes sculpted by nature, it’s no wonder the eyes of every Irish person you meet are smiling.
For many, when thinking of Ireland and Northern Ireland, they think of The Troubles, but in recent years, thoughts turn to the vibrant nightlife of its growing cities, Tayto crisps, university innovation and of course, the scenic backdrops of HBO’s award-winning Game of Thrones series.
Whether you’re following the three-eyed raven through Northern Ireland, planting a kiss on the Blarney Stone for the gift of eloquence, or looking to hold an event in Ireland, the two relatively compact countries prove that there is far more to Ireland than Father Ted and Guinness.
Together, Ireland and Northern Ireland have seen robust economic recovery in recent years and are currently among the fastest-growing economies in the developed world. For a small nation, they have inspired the growth of big business and have become a capital of filmmaking as well as a thriving business platform for established industry professionals and entrepreneurs alike.
From Enniscorthy to Cork and Belfast, these locations are fused together with elements of Irish art, architecture, castles and culture with a carefully chosen selection of locally sourced artisan food and drink tastings to make it a desirable destination for events.
It’s what has led organisers such as River Street Events, MCM Central and Fresh Montgomery to geo-clone and acquire events in Ireland (more on them later).
As a destination to visit on business, Ireland and Northern Ireland’s size lends itself well to getting as much out of exhibition and event visitors’ time as possible.
Ireland is an accessible, unique destination with a cutting-edge infrastructure, a vibrant culture and warm, hospitable people.
It’s the people that make the Emerald Isle stand out from the rest of the world, and combined, Ireland and Northern Ireland have a proud social and economic history and a booming exhibition and events industry.
“A hub for the technological and pharmaceutical industries, Ireland has the infrastructure and experience required to deliver first-class business events, while its rich cultural heritage means that there is plenty for delegates to do outside of the event,” says Joyce McElroy, business tourism manager at Meet In Ireland.
“Boasting cosmopolitan cities and pioneering technologies alongside spectacular scenery, inspiring culture and a thriving gastronomic scene, Ireland covers all the bases as a business tourism destination.”
IN GOOD COMPANY
The close relationship between Ireland’s regional convention bureaux has enabled the country to economically benefit from their unique approach of advice on conference and event facilities, bid support, coordination of site inspections and destination programme development.
Travelling across the north and the south, each city has its own distinctive character but, thanks to the Irish charm, all guarantee their visitors a vibrant mix of culture, history and entertainment, combined with the professionalism and enthusiasm of the Irish event venues and service providers.
“The role of events as positive economic and social drivers is recognised within Northern Ireland’s tourism strategies and plans,” says the team at Tourism Northern Ireland.
“Events and festivals generate an array of economic and social impacts. They provide an opportunity to generate additional visitors and revenue and create and enhance a positive image and reputation nationally and internationally and contribute to civic pride.”
From the Eikon Exhibition Centre, Belfast Waterfront to the RDS, venues across Ireland and Northern Ireland each offer exhibition spaces, alongside unmissable character.
Pointed out by each venue EN visits, 2016 is the year of the food revolution in Ireland, with food trails, farmers markets, beer-tastings, bake offs and restaurants and recipes around every corner.
Ireland’s long tradition of farming and green living still stands, where almost every restaurant and hotel sources locally from farmer markets and proudly displays notices saying so.
With puffed out chests and a twinkle in their eye, the Isle has also produced world famous writers, painters, sculptors, musicians, composers and dancers in successive generations, whose talents have received both national and international acclaim.
In its vibrant and dynamic cities, everything is close at hand. It is easier than ever getting to Ireland and Northern Ireland, whether from just down the road, across the Irish Sea or from the other side of the world. It is the ease of travel that is key to its success in attracting event and exhibition visitors to Ireland.
The Emerald Isle is just a short 45-minute flight from the UK and has five international airports (Dublin, Cork, Shannon, Ireland West Airport Knock and Belfast) with more than 100 direct routes daily. With a 17 per cent increase on routes to Ireland from British provincial airports, Ireland is now served by 1,055 flights per week from 22 British airports.
Ireland continues to build its connectivity and international ties with more and more airlines flying into the airports each year. Ireland’s national carrier, Aer Lingus, for example, flies to destinations all over the world with direct flights to many major airports in the USA and Canada, while Ireland’s second carrier, Ryanair, is continually expanding its services into Europe.
It was announced recently that Ireland and China have formally committed to seeking to establish direct air services between the two countries.
Among the romantic preconceptions visitors bring to Ireland, it is their expectations of the landscape that will be quickly fulfilled.
Whether you’re renting a car or travelling by train, it’ll be hard not to find a picturesque scenic route.
Impressively, Northern Ireland’s integrated bus and rail public transport company, Translink, has spent more than £700,000 on providing Wi-Fi on buses and trains will help business travellers and visitors on their travels between events. There’s much to see and do, but where to stay?
Ireland boasts more than 1,000 hotels including leading international brands, trendy boutique hotels, refined stately homes and castles, and luxurious country resorts. There are more than 60,000 hotel rooms available across Ireland, with 20,000 of these located in Dublin.
With its continued growth and ease of travel offering, it is no wonder that Ireland’s exhibition and events industry is in full boom.
Over the next few features, EN takes a closer look at what the Irish cities of Belfast, Dublin and Cork have to offer.