Conferences return as ICC Belfast targets £125m in economic impact

Posted By:
ICC Belfast

6th Apr 2022

Business events are returning to Belfast as the sector continues to recover from a two-year hiatus due to the global health crisis.  This week International Convention Centre (ICC) Belfast welcomed the Microbiology Society Conference for their first ‘in person’ conference since their last visit to Belfast in 2019.  Over 1,000 delegates are expected to take part in the four-day conference which includes a range of events presented by global leaders in the field and social gatherings organised throughout Belfast.

Chief Executive of the Microbiology Society Dr Peter Cotgreave said: “Following the spotlight that has been thrown on microbiology by the pandemic, it’s wonderful to be back in Belfast for our Annual Conference, which will enable new collaborations and the development of research which has the power to change lives. The Microbiology Society welcomes anyone interested in microbes, their effects and their uses and we are looking forward to meeting all our delegates and showcasing some incredible research.”

The return of conferences is positive for ICC Belfast as the organisation enters a new financial year with multiple national and international conferences scheduled to take place.  Following the Microbiology Society Conference, the International Association of Teachers of English as a Foreign Language Conference takes place in May and the Intensive Care Society State of the Art Congress in June.  These three events alone will deliver an estimated Economic Impact of over £5m.

The Microbiology Society Conference at ICC Belfast has been supported by the Belfast and Northern Ireland Conference Support Scheme. The scheme funded by Belfast City Council and Tourism NI and administered by Visit Belfast provides support to eligible associations to host conference and meetings in Belfast and Northern Ireland and further enhance the profile of the region as a business events destination.

A New Integrated Strategy for Business Events in Northern Ireland was launched in March which seeks to double the number of international conferences hosted annually and attract three times the number of delegates from the UK and Ireland by 2030.  The steering group, made up of representatives from Tourism Northern Ireland, Visit Belfast and Visit Derry, and a range of organisations including ICC Belfast, Invest NI, Queen’s University and Ulster University, estimated that the business events sector in Northern Ireland could generate an additional £209 million in direct economic impact and up to 2000 new jobs by 2030.

Julia Corkey, Chief Executive, ICC Belfast said: “We are delighted to be hosting the Microbiology Society this week with over 1,000 delegates and 24 exhibitors from across the UK and Europe, kicking off a packed programme of business events for the rest of 2022/23. Our world-class venue is specifically designed to attract and accommodate national and international business events, and as such is integral to the delivery of the recently launched Integrated Strategy for Business Events. When we bring these events to our venues, we take real pride in the fact that the economic impact will be felt throughout Belfast and Northern Ireland.”


Business events attract high spending visitors throughout the year and play an important role in a balanced tourism portfolio.  Conferences, meetings and business events generated £37 million of direct expenditure for the Northern Ireland economy in 2019, the last year for which full statistics are available.

Visit Belfast’s Director of Business Development, Sustainability and Transformation, Rachael McGuickin added: With ICC Belfast and our other conference partners, we have worked incredibly hard to ensure that business and events tourism in Belfast has contributed to the growth and development of the city over the last two decades.  Those efforts and multi-millions of pounds of investment by the sector have elevated the City’s reputation in the global meetings and events marketplace resulting in Belfast being named ‘Best Events Destination’ for three of the past five years at the Conference & Incentive Travel (C&IT) Magazine awards.  As we rebuild our business tourism sector following the Covid 19 pandemic, ICC Belfast will continue to play a central part in the delivery of our citywide business tourism offering.”

Despite the challenges of the last two years the ICC Belfast team continued to diversify and deliver immersive experiences and innovative hybrid events, including a launch for STATSports and announcing the One Young World Summit, ahead of its 2023 arrival to Belfast.

Conor Carberry, Business Solutions Tourism NI, concluded: “As a world class venue for business events ICC Belfast is a crucial partner in our plan to rebuild the sector.
As business tourism tentatively returns, we look forward to working collaboratively with all of our partners and welcoming the clients who have chosen Belfast and Northern Ireland as the destination for their first ‘in person’ events since early 2020.”

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