Dublin’s new convention centre is set to rejuvenate the Irish capital’s meetings trade when it opens on September 7.
At a lunch held last week in London to promote business travel to the country, Irish tourism minister Mary Hanafin told Business Traveller: “This year sees the culmination of major infrastructural projects that will make Ireland better for conventions than it has ever been. Terminal 2 opens at the airport in November, improving ease and comfort of access, while road infrastructure [has been improved] with bypasses and good motorways criss-crossing the country.
“The new convention centre will have the capacity to take 8,000 delegates [doubling the city’s previous capacity of about 4,000 people across various venues]. The new Aviva stadium also opened in May and offers great facilities.”
The centre will spearhead Ireland’s bid to double its business tourism revenue to €1 billion by 2013, with some 260,000 delegate days already booked. Designed by Kevin Roche, it has 22 flexible rooms, including a 2,000-seat auditorium, and 4,500 sqm of exhibition space. It also claims to be the world’s first carbon neutral convention centre.
It “had the advantage of being slap-bang in the centre of the city, on the Liffey and surrounded by hotels”, Hanafin said. “We’ve all gone to cities when you don’t see outside the conference centre because it’s in some huge place a couple of miles outside the city,” she said. “What’s been offered in Dublin is a wrap-around experience. There’s a lot of glass and natural light, meaning you have a magnificent aspect on the city.”
Ireland has been hit hard by the recession, and as a result Hanafin said it was now a better value proposition. “Prices have come down. Accommodation is really good value and there is huge capacity. Food and drink has also come down in price. So it’s a much more positive value message than even at the beginning of the year,” she said.
The recent volcanic ash crisis had also highlighted ease of access for UK visitors. “People are starting to look at the ferries and have realised just how close Ireland is by boat,” Hanafin said.
Report by Michelle Mannion