How Irish event organisers can make the most of business tourism boom

As a country that takes pride in our spirit of collaboration, it’s time for conference professionals to make connections with the best and the brightest...

The Irish have always known how to throw a great shindig.

Word of that knack has spread far and wide, especially in recent years as more and more overseas parties pick the Emerald Isle as their destination of choice if they have a major event or conference to plan.

Business tourism is proving to be both very lucrative and on the rise on these shores – the sector is currently worth €669 million to the Irish economy per annum, and provides around 20,000 new jobs.

Figures for 2015 showed that Dublin is in the top 20 cities worldwide in the sector, up six places to 18th after hosting 97 international association conferences in 2015. Ireland ranked 32nd in the world, with regional venues in Cork, Galway and Limerick all featuring in the list for the first time.

In March 2016 alone, Dublin added four major conferences to its calendar, including the European Cities Marketing TIC Expert Meeting.

At an annual briefing in Dublin’s Conference Centre, Fáilte Ireland confirmed business amounting to more than €138 million had been confirmed in the spring, with €52.5m to follow.

On an individual basis, every conference delegate that comes here is worth €1,400 to the Irish economy.

Miriam Kennedy, Head of Business Tourism with Fáilte Ireland, said:

"Last year was a record year for the area of business tourism but our aim is for 2016 to be even more ambitious, with growth of 12% targeted. Business tourism is a highly competitive game with a valuable return but we, in Fáilte Ireland, are fully committed to ensuring we secure a large piece of the pie".

Of course, the best way to build is by making sure the events we’ve got going on right now go off without a hitch. We’ve the start-of-the-art facilities, technology, innovation and ability, but are we putting them all together in the most effective, dynamic way possible?

That’s where Connect16 comes in. The brainchild of Nicola McGrane – who’s been involved in the conference game at home and abroad for over a quarter of a century – the live RDS showcase is set to be a great big industry melting pot of ideas, providing a platform for all event professionals to share their talents and learn from each other on Wednesday, September 28th.

With Fáilte Ireland and Tourism Ireland on board and fully in support of McGrane’s vision, the showcase will bring together a vast and eclectic array of event professionals all under one roof.

For her part, McGrane believes we’ve a unique opportunity in this country.

“It was not until I started operating outside Ireland that I realised the real value of what we really have in Ireland,” she says, noting that our flexibility, ease of doing business, authenticity and international reputation are massive advantages.

She also values our size.

“Probably all our grandmothers told us ‘the best things come in small parcels’. Well, that is Ireland! We are small but, with smallness comes greatness. We punch way above our weight and we have a natural ability to connect easily.”

Connect16 is set to feature over 200 hotels, venues and event suppliers. On top of that, you’ll get great tastings of each region, the best entertainment out there, and 30 educational seminars. The self-styled “incubator of innovative Ireland” is custom-built to help event organisers properly plan and enhance their next 12 months of activity.

As Pádraic Gilligan wrote in his July article on the event:

“Connect16 is not your usual cliquey trade show made up of alickadoos air-kissing, hugging and high fiving each other; rather, it’s a wide-open market square where #eventprofs are inviting all and sundry to come along to see, hear, taste, touch and smell what this magnificent industry does in Ireland and how it can effect transformative change for companies, associations, destinations through its unique métier.”

Instead, it aims to ditch niche outlooks and take in the big picture.

If you fancy including your team in it, you can register for the September 28th event, head to connectshowcase.ie