In early December I was l invited to attend Micebook’s Agency Leaders forum taking place in Belfast, Northern Ireland.

The event hosted in partnership with Visit Belfast and Tourism Northern Ireland, brought together leaders from agencies including Cheerful Twentyfirst, OrangeDoor, First Event, and The Turner Agency for three days to network, learn, develop and discuss the strategic issues facing the MICE industry.

As is to be expected, many of the conversations focused on sustainability and the impact it is having on the entire industry, supply chain and wider ecosystem. With Identity having delivered G7, the opening ceremony of Climate Week NYC and COP26, we are at the pinnacle in this field simply because we have delivered at scale, but it was great to hear how the other leaders in the group are thinking and they are embracing innovation to address this global issue.

I loved Belfast’s story and commitment as it has recently been named as one of the top 20 Sustainable Destinations in the world by the Global Destination Sustainability Index. Several sustainable steps were integrated in the itinerary including plant-based breakfast, no printed items or disposable plastic and locally sourced produce for the menus. Some transfers were on board one of Translink’s ground-breaking hydrogen-powered buses.

Leaders also took part in a leader-led problem-solving content session and heard from Bill Wolsey, Owner of The Merchant Hotel, who shared his ‘Road to Success’ and Historical Royal Palaces’ Alan Greer and Nicola Andrews, who talked about Business Survival and the Charity Sector.

Never having been to Belfast before, I had a preconception which by all accounts isn’t unique. I knew a little of the History; Titanic was built there, the famed shipbuilding industry had collapsed and the more recently I knew of the troubles, which in my mind created a grey picture. How wrong could I be; Rachael McGuickin, Director of Visit Belfast said: “With multi-millions of pounds invested in recent years, Belfast is fast gaining a reputation as one of the world’s most exciting and emerging business events and tourist destinations”.

The hospitality was incredible, wherever we went, whatever we did we were welcomed with a warmth I have rarely experienced in all my travels. It feels very special; the bars, restaurants, hotels and venues want you there. The history adds to the flavour; having lunch in historically correct Boardroom of the White Starline offices (now the Titanic Hotel) where the decisions we made on everything about the Titanic, including how many lifeboats it needed, was a highlight; hair standing up on the back of my neck experience that I won’t forget…

Belfast has only been on this journey to attract business events and tourism for about 10 years so the entire city and region is learning; it wants to embrace it visitors and do things differently because it can…

If you ask me, both individuals and clients will leave Northern Ireland inspired and excited having experienced Belfast and the region.

A massive thank you to:
Chetan Shah – Micebook
Rachael McGuickin and Lisa Stewart – Visit Belfast
Nicola Andrews – Historical Royal Palaces
Tourism Northern Ireland