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Belfast's star keeps on rising


Aug 22, 2008 | Editors

Overlooked for decades due to economic and political reasons, the city of Belfast has been enjoying a boom in the past few years, and nowhere has this renaissance been more apparent than in its burgeoning conferencing and events industry.

Though the capital of Northern Ireland and boasting a large business population, as well as the specialist expertise of the prestigious Queen's University, the city nevertheless suffered from being overlooked in the 1990s in favour of the UK mainland as well as Dublin, just down the road and across the border.

However, the end of the Troubles and the investment of millions of pounds in the city centre and its historic waterfront - where the ill-fated Titanic was constructed almost a century ago - has seen businesses flock back to Belfast and now it has firmly established itself as one of Europe's most attractive conferencing destinations, and not just for its relative affordability.

Holding the crown for the city's best conferencing venue right now is the stunning Waterfront.

In addition to playing host to some of the biggest names in popular and classical music, it has also firmly established itself as one of Europe's premier conferencing venues, boasting a main auditorium capable of seating more than 2,200 people, in addition to 14 meeting rooms and a studio venue for smaller events.

Indeed, in the past ten years alone, the Waterfront has welcomed more than 2,000 national and international conferences, putting it head and shoulders above its Belfast rivals and allowing it to invest in cutting-edge technology and chic, contemporary furnishings, which look set to keep it on top of the pile for some time yet.

Of course, with businesses clamouring to book their conferences at the Waterfront, less in-demand and therefore more affordable venues may also look attractive to events organisers and, fortunately, Belfast boasts venues to suit all needs and corporate budgets.

The historic city centre is dotted with all the usual hotel chains all too happy to welcome business groups of all sizes, including Hilton, Radisson SAS, Malmaisson and Ramada, while even the smallest of traditional Irish bars or hotels are happy to lease out some space for a meeting.

However, for the true Belfast experience, organisers should at least take a look at two of the UK's most exciting and unique conferencing venues.

Originally built in the 12th century, Belfast Castle has served the Normans, English lords and most recently absentee-landlords from the mainland UK over the years and now serves as a top-end conference and meeting venue, with delegates free to wander the landscaped gardens, complete with deer, or enjoy the views from Cave Hill over the city below.

Likewise, the Stormont Hotel allows guests and delegates to enjoy a little bit of Belfast history with their corporate event, with the home of the Northern Ireland Assembly just yards from the five-star venue and therefore easily accessible in a lunch break, though many guests may opt to stay on for a day or two to enjoy the best that the city has to offer.
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