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Derry’s Leap of Faith Pays Off


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Here is how this historic city in Northern Ireland won the bid to host its first-ever global event next year.

The city of Derry, also known as Londonderry, has secured its first global event, the 30th World Congress of the International Association for Suicide Prevention (IASP).

We caught up with Aoife McHale, business and leisure tourism officer for Visit Derry, to ask her about the steps that were taken to attract this piece of new international business:

How did Derry/Londonderry secure the IASP2019 congress?

We hosted the Irish Association of Suicidology annual conference during our year as UK City of Culture 2013 and based on the conference’s success we took a leap of faith and decided to bid for the International Association for Suicide Prevention World Congress.

We wanted to make the bid reflective of the destination as well as taking the association’s aims and objectives into consideration and created a theme of Breaking Down Walls and Building Bridges, which was a way to integrate our 17th-century walled city and Peace Bridge with the overall theme of the conference.

Suicide prevention is a core theme within our national health strategy and we made this integral to the bid, showcasing that by bringing 800 of the world’s leading mental health academics, we will not only generate a major economic impact, but more importantly will bring great social benefit to the city and region.

Visit Derry sourced funding to support our three ambassadors’ travel to the 2015 International Association for Suicide Prevention Congress in Montreal where they presented their bid to an executive committee. Our ambassadors were phenomenal, from their social media interaction the moment they boarded the plane to canvassing and promoting our bid to delegates and speakers throughout the week. Finally, they delivered a powerful bid presentation to succeed against Rome, Vienna, and Piran (Slovenia).

Do you feel Derry/Londonderry’s resurgence played a role in securing the event?

Absolutely. In 2013, we won the inaugural UK City of Culture title and were named by Lonely Planet as a Top 10 City in the World to Visit. These prestigious accolades were a catalyst for transformation in the city, in particular the MICE sector with conference bookings increasing by almost 50 percent. Securing The European Business Network Congress contributed to an economic impact of over £5m from MICE activity during this iconic year.

The positive PR throughout 2013 was of immense value and we continue to benefit, with 2017 reporting our best tourism performance on record. Our MICE sector is still in embryonic stages when we consider the potential within the city, hosting the IASP Congress next year will be a game changer.

What new elements will Derry/Londonderry bring to the IASP 2019 Congress?

The association noted that gala dinner attendance had decreased slightly in recent years, so we pitched a “Game of Thrones” themed dinner to stimulate new interest whilst also showcasing Northern Ireland as one of the production’s major filming locations.

What attracts business events to Derry/Londonderry?

Our close network of medical and academic conference ambassadors is absolutely the catalyst for association business growth; for us it’s very much about building a honeycomb of research and intel focussed on the city’s strength sectors then cultivating genuine relationships with the associated ambassador.

Social and networking events centred around cultural or culinary activities such as a West End musical or a tasting menu at a local restaurant are a great way to stay engaged with ambassadors whilst also an opportunity for us to gain referrals for new potential recruits.

What technological advancements is Derry/Londonderry making to attract new business?

Derry/Londonderry is a Super Connected city, which means we offer high-powered internet service to all conferences ensuring efficient streaming across multiple devices and free Wi-Fi access. Data hungry companies will find the same quality telecommunications services on offer here as in major cities like London, Amsterdam, and New York.

What is Visit Derry’s ambition and its vision in terms of being a destination for global events?

The historic walled city of Derry/Londonderry is located in beautiful northwest Northern Ireland where the Wild Atlantic Way meets the Causeway Coastal Route. In addition to its spectacular surrounding landscapes, the destination has benefitted from significant hospitality sector investment over the past five years in areas such as venue development, accommodation capacity, tourism product, and access.

This has greatly repositioned our MICE tourism offering and increased our competitiveness as a destination on a national and international scale. We have developed an ambitious plan to accelerate our MICE sector which will help drive our strategic vision of 1 million visitors by 2020. The Visit Derry Conference Ambassador Programme at Ulster University and Altnagelvin Hospital secures almost 90 percent of our conference business.

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