Belfast City Hall
Let Northern Ireland accompany you on the meetings, incentives, conferences and events journey.
The search for MICE destinations that motivate and inspire attendees, create lasting memories and provide an authentic opportunity to connect with the destination and its people continues.
Northern Ireland, covering 14,130km², may be considered small geographically, but it is a destination with a giant heart and giant MICE appeal. History tells of a tumultuous past, but today we have a very different story to tell. A story of a destination welcoming visitors in record numbers and with open arms that encourage people to explore its every corner and connect with its truly transformational culture. It is little wonder that Lonely Planet named Belfast and The Causeway Coast as a ‘best region in the world’ to visit in 2018.
When seeking out destinations for MICE programmes, logistics is always top of mind. So how does a group access Northern Ireland? From a North American perspective, access is predominantly via Dublin International Airport; a 90 minute transfer takes you from Dublin International Airport to Northern Ireland’s capital city, Belfast. The transfer from Dublin International Airport to Northern Ireland provides multiple MICE experience opportunities to enjoy en-route and it’s recommended to make the transfer a positive part of any MICE programme. Good to note that there are also 45 scheduled coach transfers per day between Dublin airport and Belfast for any attendees travelling independently. Interestingly, Belfast itself has two airports. Utilising George Best Belfast City Airport, situated 5km outside Belfast city, the opportunity exists to arrive directly into Belfast via Amsterdam and Heathrow, two of Europe’s main airport hubs. Belfast International Airport , 21km outside Belfast city and the second largest gateway on the island of Ireland, is home to a range of established airlines operating an extensive flight network.
In many respects, Northern Ireland can be seen as a new and emerging destination within the incentive travel industry, and the desire of its people to put Northern Ireland on the incentive travel map is palpable; fuelled by characters full of passion, professionalism and perseverance. Those insiders who have already operated incentive travel programmes in Northern Ireland have experienced an exceptional destination, witnessing first-hand how Northern Ireland is #IncentiveReady. So, what awaits the MICE visitor?
Where to Rest your Head?
Lough Erne Resort, Enniskillen, County Fermanagh
Northern Ireland’s hotel sector has been growing rapidly, largely due to a significant increase in external visitors, with overnight trips alone reaching 2.7 million in 2017. This means that a greater choice of quality accommodation being available for consideration. Belfast is home to several established luxury hotels including The Merchant Hotel located in Belfast’s thriving Cathedral Quarter and The Fitzwilliam Belfast, which adds a splash of fabulousness to Belfast’s 5 star hotel scene. We encourage our MICE clients to really explore the hotel offering and make the chosen hotel(s) an integral part of the programme. With original, individual and high quality options available within the Hastings Hotels collection, you can choose from, amongst others, the 5 star Culloden Estate and Spa, the Slieve Donard Resort and Spa and one of 2018’s most hotly anticipated hotel openings, The Grand Central. Throughout Northern Ireland you will find several additional hotel resort gems, such as The Galgorm Resort & Spa set on 163 acres of lush parkland and just 30 minutes from Belfast and The Lough Erne Resort, hosts of the 2013 G8 Summit and a destination for golfers and foodies alike.
In Belfast city alone, the statistics speak for themselves, with 2018 representing a year of exceptional growth in hotel rooms; 3,025 rooms are now available in the city across 23 hotels within the 4 and 5 star category. Overall, in Northern Ireland, there will be
10,000 hotel rooms by 2020, with 1,000 coming on stream in 2018. Over £500m will have been invested in the hotel sector, both in new builds, refurbishments and extensions. Need more proof that Northern Ireland is #IncentiveReady? Read on….
Game of Thrones Winterfell Tour, Castle Ward, County Down
Travel is all about experience, and the search for original, authentic and memorable moments is a key ask of the MICE buyer. We understand this completely in Northern Ireland and we are very fortunate to have a number of bucket list experiences synonymous with our destination whether your preference is to taste whisky in the oldest licensed whiskey distillery in the world, Bushmills or to get your Game of Thrones® on by Immersing participants in the locations made famous by the show, incorporate a Game of Thrones experience by visiting Winterfell Castle & Demesne, and perhaps even dine there to ensure your programme’s engagement and appeal reaches a new level. Now let’s not forget about one of Europe’s most breathtakingly beautiful coastlines, The Causeway Coastal Route, with one of its many highlights being The Giant’s Causeway, A UNESCO World Heritage Site, comprised of 40,000 interlocking basalt columns. For a further adrenalin rush, cross the Carrick-A-Rede Rope Bridge and follow in the footsteps of the brave fisherman, who erected the bridge in 1755 to check their salmon nets! Titanic Belfast has been a game changer for our destination with the giant heart. Awarded World’s Leading Tourist Attraction in December 2016, Titanic Belfast offers a special visitor experience but also an original venue that can be used for private events.
However, the experience available in Northern Ireland runs much deeper and seeking out the people and places driving the Northern Ireland experience is our favourite pastime.
Food and Beverage
St George's Market, Belfast, County Antrim
A food renaissance has been taking place across the island of Ireland; a renaissance truly evident in Northern Ireland. Making its culinary mark with the people at Michelin, a total of 74 establishments in Northern Ireland are listed in their current guide. The Belfast dining scene is reaching fever pitch, and both of its one star Michelin restaurants, OX and EIPIC, are certain to be on your MICE programme radar. Going above and beyond the great restaurants, pubs, cafes and markets on offer, the MICE buyer has an extensive choice of food and beverage experiential activities to incorporate into any programme.
Connect with those driving Northern Ireland’s food and beverage scene and embark on a special food and beverage journey. Keeping it in the city, visit Belfast’s delicatessens, showcasing the best of local produce, wander around the food and beverage treasure trove that is St. George’s Market, and most importantly, have your guests actively involved in creating experiences that last a lifetime. Venture outside of Belfast and suddenly the food and beverage dial is turned up a notch. Get up close and personal with some of Northern Ireland’s most engaging characters and discover a destination through your taste buds.
Key figures driving these experiences, amongst many others, include Caroline Wilson of Taste and Tour NI, Portia Woods of Toast The Coast Food Tours and The Belfast Bred Food Tour by theatre company, Kabosh. Whether you opt to sip a local craft beer, gin or whisky, embrace shellfish tasting, oyster harvesting, or perhaps put your baking skills to practice, your choices are vast, and the flexibility is there to create bespoke experiences specific to your needs and numbers.