by Richard Buckley, Editor, Business Eye

Belfast Waterfront will play host to the 2018 Royal College of Nursing (RCN) Annual Congress in less than two weeks, which will be the largest conference held in the international conference centre to date. This is the first time the Annual Congress has come to Belfast and will see up to 5,000 delegates descend on Belfast over the five day conference from 12 -16 May.


  The huge influx of business tourists is anticipated to deliver a £4.8m boost to the local economy.  

The RCN is the largest union and professional body for the nursing profession in the United Kingdom.  Representing over 420,000 members, including nurses, midwives, healthcare workers and students, the Annual Congress is the Association’s flagship debating forum and helps to inform the RCN’s policies and work for the coming year.  As the UK’s largest exhibition of nursing products and services, the Congress will include over 100 events across the five days. 

The bid to host it was won via a joint partnership between Belfast Waterfront and Visit Belfast, who collaborate to position Belfast as a world–class destination city for events and conferences – with the aim to increase business tourism footfall to the city.  

Lord Mayor of Belfast Councillor Nuala McAllister said: “Having recently been awarded the Freedom of the City, I think it’s fantastic that the Royal College of Nursing will be holding its annual congress in the city for the first time, and I’m delighted that Belfast Waterfront was successful in bidding to host this conference – the largest to be held in the conference centre to date.

 

“This represents a great opportunity to showcase Belfast to 5,000 delegates from near and far, some of whom may never have visited the city before. Conferences like this are vital to the city’s business tourism and provide a significant boost to the local economy. Having a world-class venue such as Belfast Waterfront means we can compete on a global stage to attract more events and conferences on this scale, building on our reputation as a destination to do business in.”

 

Gerry Lennon, Chief Executive of Visit Belfast said:  Belfast has received an increasing number of travel related accolades recently positioning it firmly on the world map, from being voted the trendiest European City for Business Travel to Lonely Planet pinpointing the city as the number one region to visit in 2018. 

 

“Belfast is a city resurgent and it hasn’t gone unnoticed by conference organisers, notably the Royal College of Nursing.  They recognise the potential in Belfast, with a top class conference venue, services and facilities complemented by its remarkable strength and research in medical science.  We look forward to welcoming 5,000 delegates across the city in May.”

Belfast is in a position to host a conference of this scale following the £29.5m extension to Belfast Waterfront, unveiled in 2016.  The redevelopment, which was funded by Belfast City Council, Tourism NI and the European Regional Development Fund, was critical to securing the RCN Congress.

John McGrillen, CEO of Tourism NI said:  “The RCN Congress is a significant win for Belfast and will bring a major boost to our economy.  The newly redeveloped Belfast Waterfront is already proving to be a catalyst for economic growth in Belfast and Tourism NI is proud to have played a key role in the development of a world-class conference centre.”

 

According to Catherine Toolan, Managing Director of Belfast Waterfront, the conference is eagerly anticipated by both the venue and the city:

 

“The RCN Congress is the premier event in the nursing calendar and we’re delighted that Belfast Waterfront is the host venue for 2018.   Our unique space will be dynamically tailored to facilitate everything from the opening ceremony and RCN award ceremony, to debates on health and social care and even ‘Laughter Yoga’ workshops.  

 

“The city is also eagerly anticipating RCN delegates and everyone in our bars, restaurants and hotels to taxi drivers, cafes and even our market stall traders will welcome delegates with open arms.  This conference alone will have an economic impact on the city of nearly £5m, illustrating how when Belfast Waterfront wins, everyone wins.” 

 

Belfast Waterfront and Visit Belfast are actively engaging national and international markets to sell Belfast as a unique, vibrant and exclusive destination for conferences or events. Their collective vision is to make Belfast a world leading Business Tourism destination. 

 

Catherine concluded: “We have the venue, infrastructure and scale to host events of this nature – but what will set Belfast apart is the vibrancy and energy of the people and businesses of this great city.  Their support will deliver a unique city-wide conference experience that only Belfast can deliver.”

 

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L-R Garrett Martin, Deputy Director, RCN NI, Catherine Toolan, Managing Director, Belfast Waterfront; Fiona Devlin, Board Chair RCN NI; Gerry Lennon, CEO Visit Belfast; Joanne Taylor, Business Solutions Officer, Tourism NI.

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