Giving Attendees ‘The Trip of a Lifetime’ in Northern Ireland
A Sponsored Article From Tourism Northern Ireland
Located at the base of the Mountains of Mourne in County Down, the Slieve Donard Resort and Spa has been welcoming guests for more than 100 years. (Photos courtesy Tourism Northern Ireland)
As the face-to-face industry navigates the post-pandemic return to live events, one thing is clear: Attendees will be looking for the chance to immerse themselves in new destinations. Consider this pre-COVID statistic from MMGY: More than half of American travelers believed it was essential to learn about new cultures and gain perspectives on new ways of life when traveling. After more than a year of restrictions and shutdowns, that desire for cultural authenticity will undoubtedly be even stronger, and Tourism Northern Ireland (TNI) is prepared to deliver those one-of-a-kind experiences with its Embrace a Giant Spirit initiative.
Launched in 2019 with TNI’s experience development team, Embrace a Giant Spirit encompasses the breadth of the country’s offerings — like a tour of the 150 years of historical happenings in Belfast, a meditation session on a volcanic mountain in County Armagh, a hike along the cliffs of the Causeway Coast, and more.
The Spirit of Historic Storytelling, The Style of Today’s Luxury Standards
“There is no better way to stimulate conversation and provoke thought than through the art of storytelling,” said Arthur McGauran, CITP, general manager of Custom Ireland and president-elect SITE Ireland. “The experiences within Embrace a Giant Spirit tell the Northern Ireland story incredibly well, and really help to bring our activities for our international groups to life.”
Visitors can take in a mindfulness course offered by Xhale Meditation near Slieve Gullion, the highest peak in County Armagh.
Consider one of McGauran’s recent experiences to infuse that giant spirit into a program: a private BBQ dinner on the seaside grounds of Dunluce Castle, built in the 1500s. The castle’s ruins have had a starring role in HBO’s Game of Thrones, and the landmark experienced its own real-life medieval family battles in its early days. Dunluce is just one of the cast of castles that dot the countryside, too. Organizers can choose from a lengthy list of towers, abbeys, monasteries, and royal residences for programming and add-on excursions for attendees.
While Northern Ireland’s historical roots will enthrall attendees, the country’s high-class contemporary venues and infrastructure will impress event organizers. Darlene Catan, a meeting consultant with the Insurance Meeting Network, took five clients on a site visit to Northern Ireland in early 2020 and closed two pieces of incentive business with another on the way.
“Our hotels were all five-star and offered the latest technology set amongst old-world charm,” Catan said, “from the heart of Belfast to our hotel overlooking the Antrim Coastline. We felt safe and welcomed and were taken aback by the wonderful food and amazing whiskeys that we sampled throughout our trip.”
Marty Mackay, DMCP, president of Alliance Events and Operations, shares a similar reverence for Northern Ireland after taking 200 attendees from around the world to Belfast.
“Our group utilized two of the Hastings Hotels – the Grand Central and the Europa,” Mackay said. “The two properties complemented each other perfectly, and we were able to use the space at the Europa, along with the Grand Central.”
“If a peer asked me if they should take a group to Northern Ireland,” Mackay added, “I would tell them 150 percent they should and that they will not regret it. From the planning to the execution, I would take another group in a heartbeat.”
In Belfast, the If Buildings Could Talk Tour stops in front of The Crown Liquor Saloon, which has been on Great Victoria Street since the 1800s and is one of Northern Ireland’s best-known pubs.
A Giant Spirit That Feels Like a Giant ‘Hug’
Mackay isn’t the only one longing to return to the charm of Northern Ireland. The post-event survey feedback from her group shows that the country is integral to accomplishing every organizer’s goal: Leave an unforgettable impression.
“The best description I can give of Northern Ireland is taken from one of our attendees who described our experience there as ‘it felt like a big, warm hug,’” Mackay says. “The destination is stunning. The food is divine, and the people are nothing short of amazing. The program that we took there in 2018 is an annual event, and our attendees are still talking about Belfast as the trip of a lifetime.”
Introduce Your Group to the Giant Spirit
As you plan your next international gathering, the Tourism Northern Ireland team is here to assist. The Business Solutions team can provide support for planners, including assets to help with proposals, financial support for site inspections, funding to support FAM trips, and more.