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ASGBI hails Belfast as the friendliest host city

ennifer Crawley-Patterson (Sales Manager Belfast Waterfront), 
Bhavnita Patel (Assistant Chief Executive at ASGBI), John Moorehead (ASGBI President and local Ambassador) and Sarah Gribben (Conference and Events Manager at Visit Belfast).
The Association of Surgeons of Great Britain and Ireland (ASGBI) hailed Belfast as the friendliest host city at its annual International Surgical Congress held last week in the fantastic new Belfast Waterfront conference centre. This year’s conference marked the first time that ASGBI hosted the Chapter of Surgeons of The British Transplant Society (BTS) and the Irish Chapter of the Association of Upper Gastrointestinal Surgeons (AUGIS) in running parallel sessions.

Visit Belfast and Belfast Waterfront extended a warm welcome to the 1,100-strong international delegation attending the first conference to use the stunning 7,000m2 riverside venue since its official opening on Friday 29 April.

Bhavnita Patel, General Manager at ASGBI thanked the city for its warm reception: “The city has been extremely helpful and welcoming. I have been organising events for 13 years, and I found Belfast to be the friendliest host city. There is a real buzz - everyone knew about our conference and joined in to ensure that we, and our members, had a truly memorable experience.”

Belfast’s unique and greatest strength lies in a citywide approach. When event planners choose Belfast to host the event, the entire city is at their service - all 333,000 passionate service providers.

ASGBI are not alone in acknowledging the city's friendliness, this has been cited by other customers and research studies. Dr Ed Fitzgerald, Conference Director and Past President of the Association of Surgeons in Training explains: “… I can say without hesitation Belfast’s friendliness, excellent support, value for money, location and conference facilities make it stand out as the perfect business tourism destination.”

Furthermore, research for fDi’s Global Cities of the Future 2014/15 named Belfast as:
• the world’s top business friendly city in the small to medium category, and
• the world’s top 10 cities for Business Friendliness of any size.

John Moorehead, ASGBI President and Belfast Ambassador was instrumental in bringing this prestigious conference to the city. Thanks to an expansion programme to the city’s highly reputable and only purpose-built conference centre, ASGBI was able to return to Belfast after 35 years. Like many associations, its requirements have grown and become more complex over the years. The new Belfast Waterfront more than met their needs, and ultimately the conference co-located with other medical associations as part of Belfast Surgery Week, hosting four parallel conferences simultaneously (Association of Trauma & Military Surgery, Chapter of Surgeons of the European Union of Medical Specialists (UEMS), Irish Chapter of AUGIS, and Chapter of Surgeons of BTS).

Today the new facility boasts 2 multi-purpose halls, one of which measures over 1,800m2, and housed almost 50 exhibition stands and e-poster screens, as well as numerous catering and coffee points. Hall 2 spanning 700m2, together with a suite of meeting rooms, adopted various set ups to accommodate 7 parallel sessions with a number of specialty associations including: Association of Surgeons in Primary Care (ASPC), British Hernia Society (BHS), Association of Laparoscopic Surgeons of Great Britain and Ireland (ALS), Association of Surgeons in Training (ASiT), Association of Coloproctology of Great Britain and Ireland (ACP) and the Military Surgical Society (MSS). The venue also hosted symposia run by ASGBI and the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), 204 Northern Ireland Field Hospital, and The Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland.

Funded by Belfast City Council, Tourism Northern Ireland and the European Regional Development Fund, under the European Sustainable Competitiveness Programme for Northern Ireland, administered by Tourism Northern Ireland, the new world class conference facility will assist the city in attracting new delegates and international events to a bustling and vibrant Belfast city.

Bhavnita Patel added: “The integration between the new and existing facility is seamless and the entire venue is fantastic. Feedback from delegates has been extremely positive in particular the friendliness and helpfulness of the front of house team. Staff went to great lengths to ensure delegates had everything that they needed.

“Our members also remarked on the stunning views. The venue’s design cleverly brings the outside into the building. Whatever floor you’re on, you can enjoy beautiful views and plenty of natural light. At registration, during lunchtime and even when picking up their luggage, delegates enjoyed stunning views across the River Lagan.”

Jennifer Crawley-Patterson, Sales Manager at Belfast Waterfront was delighted to welcome ASGBI as the first conference, and commented: “Our 7,000m2 state-of-the-art conference has enabled us and the city to facilitate the return of many large scale events like ASGBI. Interest in the new facility has been extremely positive and we are already seeing the dividends with an increase in major national and international bookings. Being able to offer a clear span space which can cater for up to 180 exhibition stands with ease, instead of a split level exhibition was instrumental in securing this particular conference. Now with double our event space, an innovative catering approach and advanced event technology at our fingertips, we’re able to compete against the best-in-class across UK and Europe and are ready to welcome many more prestigious medical conferences.”

Laurie Scott, Director of Business Tourism at Visit Belfast added “Belfast’s reputation as a first-class destination for conference and business travel has gone from strength to strength since the Belfast Waterfront first opened its doors in 1997. The combination of an increasing choice of unique venues, attractions and conference support services, as well as investment by the meetings industry and commitment to delivering a first-class service has enabled us to attract a growing number of conferences and meetings to Belfast.

“Last year, conference sales from Visit Belfast represented a potential £45m for the local economy, and this is down to the fact that we now have such a strong offering within a compact city that’s ideal for conference organisers – from hotels and restaurants to conference venues and attractions.

“For many, the first experience of a destination is on a business trip or conference, and research has suggested that they are more likely to return as a leisure visitor if they have had a positive experience - as many as 80 percent of conference attendees indicated that they would be likely to return to a destination. This represents a huge opportunity for Belfast to attract more visitors in the future, so we were pleased to hear that all the industry’s efforts have helped ASGBI to meet their objectives and deliver a successful conference in the city.”

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