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World Credit Union Conference generates £3.7m for Belfast

Nearly 2,000 delegates from 55 countries gathered in Belfast Waterfront this week for the 2016 World Credit Union Conference, bringing a welcome £3.7m to the city’s economy.

The World Council of Credit Unions (WOCCU) is dedicated to strengthening local communities through helping stimulate economic growth and its annual 4-day conference was no exception. WOCCU worked with over 60 local suppliers including 20 hoteliers to maximise the positive impact its event had on the region’s economy.

Brian McCrory, President of the Irish League of Credit Unions and host of the 2016 World Credit Union Conference is delighted to see his vision of Belfast hosting this prestigious event being such a massive success, and comments: “I’m a member of the WOCCU board and I have lobbied for 7 years to bring our annual conference to Belfast, subject to the opening of the new extension at Belfast Waterfront. The opening of a 7,000m2 conference facility, made Belfast a serious contender as a host destination. And the new conference facilities are fantastic, we have received excellent feedback from our members about both the venue and city.”

Belfast’s business tourism offering has grown over the years and now with a 7,000m2 world-class conference facility at the heart of its proposition, the city is set to attract many more large-scale events. Belfast can now offer event organisers state-of-the-art conference facilities and an array of unique tourist attractions, but it’s the city’s friendliness that continues to captivate delegates.

“Everyone knew we were here. From taxi drivers and restaurateurs to local shop owners, they knew about the conference coming to the city – we were moved by the friendliness of the Belfast people. This city is a great business destination and we have thoroughly enjoyed our time here.

“As for the new Belfast Waterfront, it exceeded our expectations and their team, along with that of Visit Belfast, have gone above and beyond to facilitate and enable us to host a successful event here – I couldn’t say enough. The facility is brand new and is well-equipped to help foster a supportive learning environment, for our members to learn from each other and leading experts. In essence, we want repeat business and the quality is here,” praised Brian Branch, President and CEO of World Council of Credit Unions.

Belfast City Council, Tourism Northern Ireland and the European Regional Development Fund, through the European Sustainable Competitiveness Programme for Northern Ireland, funded the £29.5m extension to enable the city to secure more international conferences, which it is already succeeding in doing.

Ellvena Graham, Chair of the Belfast Waterfront and Ulster Hall Ltd Board, was delighted to welcome the World Council of Credit Unions to the city and highlights this is only the beginning: “The new Belfast Waterfront was built to help the city attract conferences of this magnitude and in doing so reaffirm Belfast’s position as a leading business tourism destination on the world stage.

“Having more space and almost 20 years’ experience of hosting prestigious events, has enabled us to secure a wider range of conferences. So far the team has contracted 40 events which will generate £28.7m for the local economy.”

Vice Chair of Visit Belfast, Tim Husbands also welcomed the conference, acknowledging on-going infrastructure investment and dedicated sales and marketing success is key to attracting significant conference business to the city:

“The extension to Belfast Waterfront along with the pipeline of hotel developments, a growing number of flight routes and the development of the city tourism infrastructure, greatly improves Belfast competitiveness in the business tourism market and brings us to a level where we can really start to compete within our competitor set, and achieve our ambitious targets of doubling tourism spend by 2020.”

Welcoming the World Council of Credit Unions is an accumulation of many years’ hard work by both the local conference Ambassador, Visit Belfast, the wider hospitality sector, and was financially supported by Belfast City Council and Tourism Northern Ireland through the Belfast and Northern Ireland Conference Subvention Scheme.

During the 4-day programme, the 1,900-strong WOCCU delegation discovered more of Northern Ireland by enjoying guided tours of the city and beyond, including the spectacular Mountains of Mourne and the UNESCO World Heritage Site, The Giants Causeway. The conference ended on a high note with the grand closing party being held in Titanic Belfast and the new Titanic Exhibition Centre.

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