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Culloden Estate and Spa, Belfast successfully hosts Biennial Nobel Women’s Initiative Conference

The Culloden Estate & Spa, Northern Ireland’s most prestigious hotel, perched high on the slopes of the Holywood Hills overlooking Belfast Lough and the County Antrim Coastline was proud to be chosen to host the international Nobel Women’s Initiative earlier this year (May 2013).

This biennial conference brings together women from around the world to discuss an issue of importance, of which the theme for 2013 was ‘Moving Beyond Militarism & War: Women-Driven Solutions for a Nonviolent World’ and the Culloden Estate & Spa’s idyllic location and world class facilities proved a winning combination.

The Nobel Women's Initiative was established in 2006 by sister Nobel Peace Laureates Jody Williams, Shirin Ebadi, Wangari Maathai, Rigoberta Menchú Tum, Betty Williams and Mairead Maguire. The six women (who between them represent North and South America, Europe, the Middle East and Africa) decided to bring together their extraordinary experiences in a united effort for peace, justice and equality. Aung San Suu Kyi became an honorary member following her release from house arrest in 2011 and Leymah Gbowee and Tawakkol Karman also joined the Initiative in 2012.

When choosing a host city for this particular conference the organising members not only take into consideration the city’s relevance to the cause, they also look at the infrastructure, attractions and facilities on offer along with the overall ability of being in a position to welcome approx. 120 guests from across the globe, over 5 days. In recent years the Nobel Women’s Initiative has visited Cork, Guatemala and Montebello, Canada but given the theme for 2013 and the wealth of investment and development that Belfast has seen in recent years, the organisers felt it was a fitting destination.

Local member Laureate Mairead Maguire was heavily involved in the organisation of the event and once Belfast has been chosen as the host city for 2013, Mairead Maguire’s focus moved to finding an exceptional venue to welcome delegates. The Culloden Estate & Spa impressed Mairead greatly and offered everything they were after including large meeting spaces combined with multiple break-out rooms, natural day light, accommodation for all attendees, an out of town location, beautiful surrounds, warm staff, efficient service and a flexible approach.

“Many of our participants come from extremely difficult situations, working in very harsh conditions, and it’s important for us to be able to offer them a place of refuge for a few days. A place where they can recharge and be very comfortable” said Lesley Hoyles, Events and Operations Manager for the Initiative. “The Culloden Estate & Spa fitted the bill in every respect”.

“As a small non-profit organisation the Nobel Women’s Initiative is very mindful of budget restraints and the team at the Culloden Estate & Spa were brilliant at discussing and offering us a range of options to suit our budgets – they really offered the flexibility we needed. They tailored everything to our specific requirements offering us a bespoke service that resulted in a hugely successful event.”

“The Culloden Estate & Spa have the best contacts in the business and value the importance of working with local suppliers who provided us with all our AV equipment and transportation needs – everything ran like clockwork.” This particular event required a flexible approach on a daily basis to manage alternating schedules and individual requirements and with the Culloden Estate & Spa’s experienced and highly efficient team in place everything was handled with ease. “The staff at the Culloden Estate & Spa were so incredibly accommodating – nothing like a midnight walk-through to ensure that things were all set for the next day!  The staff were constantly available to make any changes that we needed.  I was so impressed” said Lesley Hoyles.

Lesley also went on to say “the thing that stood out for me was the genuine warmth and willingness of the staff to truly go above and beyond.  I have never before encountered a group of people who were so genuinely happy to help, despite our many, many requests at all hours of the day.  I couldn’t fault the team in the lead up to the conference – they were amazing. They worked closely with me on all requests and made any necessary changes.  Post-event, the staff were immensely helpful in pulling together our financial reports quickly and working with me on amends.”

When asked to comment on feedback from their guests she added “We received excellent feedback from our participants about the Culloden Estate & Spa.  The thing that we heard over and over was that it was just so comfortable.  I think some people felt slightly intimidated at first because of its palatial surroundings (especially those coming from places that have very few amenities) but right away felt at home, both because of the atmosphere at the hotel and the warm welcome of the hotel staff.”

“I really can’t say enough good things about the hotel and the team there.  As the lead organizer for the conference, they made my life so much easier by being so flexible and wonderful to work with.  Most importantly, though, they made each of our guests feel welcome and at home in their beautiful hotel.”

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