Applauding the work of Visit Belfast team
As we pull into Philly, it’s a good time to applaud the work of the Visit Belfast team who head home to Belfast tonight after their first foray into the lucrative US conference and business meeting business.
If we are to hit our target of attracting 2.4 million overnight visitors to Belfast next year, spending a job-spinning £500m, then getting a bigger share of the US business market is a must.
Fortunately, the news that Belfast is set to build its own £30m convention centre is a game-changer for the city and piques the interest of those who, due to their Irish heritage, would like to consider Belfast for their business trips and gatherings.
And the Visit Belfast and Waterfront Hall teams certainly struck a chord with their compelling presentations of a city on the rise. After listening to them, I wonder why I leave Belfast at all 🙂
This was toe-in-the-water stuff but the veteran US broadcaster Paul Berry, who joined us at a NI Bureau reception last night for the Belfast delegation, caught the mood of the mission well with his own effusive testimonials for our city. Next year, Paul will launch a series of tours mixing golf and culture — and who says opposites don’t attract (spoken as a non-golfer) — and he tells me half the places on the first trip next May are already sold.
This morning, our group was feted at a Diaspora reception in the NI Bureau’s DC offices where I was again bowled over by the generosity of Irish America. We have asked them to build the peace by visiting, by bringing conferences and business tourism and by backing our arts and culture groups. They have responded enthusiastically and I hope to do more in the time ahead with Monique Miller of the Irish American Partnership and Dennia Houlihane of union AFSCME who doubles up as arts ambassador for Solas Nua which has brought many small plays from Belfast to DC.
Sadly, I don’t have the photographer Dónal McCann, a gifted lensman, with me to capture this four-day-four-city tour but you can catch up with his photo-essay of my year on his blog.
And my fledgling ‘mo’ continues to cause distress to most who see it, but it’s a good cause even if quite disconcerting to me every time I look in the mirror. If you wish to support my moustache-growing heroics on behalf of suicide prevention charity PIPS, you can do so via JustGiving.