Renowned for its vibrant atmosphere, warm welcome and world-class facilities, Belfast is an ideal city for business events and international conferences. We’re still relishing in the success of hosting the One Young World Summit 2023 earlier this month. As the co-chair and ambassador for the Summit, I witnessed first-hand how powerful collaboration can be.
It was an honour for our city to bring together young leaders from over 190 countries and more than 250 organisations for four life-changing days of knowledge-sharing and networking, and counsel from some of the most influential political, business and humanitarian leaders in the world.
Just a few decades ago Belfast would not have been in the position to host thousands of delegates. Our transformation in recent years has been remarkable. Belfast has emerged as a dynamic city – a city not just capable of hosting world-class events, but a leader in business tourism. And that’s something to be proud of.
As this recent gathering of the world’s brightest minds confirmed, business events are crucial for continued knowledge-sharing and idea generation, but also for their important economic contribution. Thousands of delegates came to our city, many for the first time, and stayed at our hotels, ate in our restaurants, jumped in our taxis and explored our attractions. Almost 70 companies from sectors including technology, financial services, energy, pharmaceuticals and more, supported the Summit and saw it as a unique opportunity to develop the next generation of future leaders. Delegates not only left with a positive perception of this place, but also left behind a significant economic contribution.
The numbers still need to be crunched – but already it is being estimated that the One Young World Summit injected an estimated 3 million into our local economy.
A key driver in securing and sustaining business events is the Ambassador Circle. Led by Visit Belfast, this programme unites individuals who are leaders in their respective industries and supports them to showcase the region on a global scale. As a proud member and winner of the 2022 Ambassador Circle Outstanding Achievement Award, I was proud to leverage my network and play a small part in bringing the One Young World Summit to Northern Ireland, and prouder that our city could facilitate it at our purpose-built convention centre, ICC Belfast. The venue that, since its 2016 expansion, has unlocked our potential to host these types of international events. Its state-of-the-art facilities, paired with the on-site team’s commitment to deliver for Belfast, makes it more than convention centre, but an agent of change.
The will of my peers in the Ambassador Circle shouldn’t go unrecognised either with Visit Belfast reporting that 80 per cent of the conferences and events that take place here are secured by members. Established more than two decades ago, this network of business and academic leaders has been critical in securing business events and conferences across various sectors including manufacturing, technology, life and health sciences, food and drink - generating £400 million for the economy.
It’s an impressive figure. A figure that will continue to grow if we continue investing in Belfast’s potential. Continued co-ordinated collaboration is key - an integrated strategy for business events has been drafted – which advocates exactly that. The next step is to put it into action. A challenge given current political inertia – but one that isn’t insurmountable, especially given the opportunities it could bring.
Decision makers can take confidence that Belfast and Northern Ireland can and does deliver. After all, as we reflect on the success of the One Young World Summit 2023, it couldn’t be clearer.