60 seconds with... Howard Hastings, Belfast's Hastings Hotels

Ahead of the Belfast Waterfront exhibition space launch, C&IT spoke to Howard Hastings, MD of Hastings Hotels, who has been championing the cause to bring corporate events to the city.

Howard Hastings, managing director, Hastings Hotels
Howard Hastings, managing director, Hastings Hotels

Belfast has finally got its new exhibition centre, how was this made possible?

The journey Belfast went on is the same journey that Northern Ireland has been on to reposition itself for visitors. It started five or six years ago, when we put new products in place to attract people after the troubles that occurred in the city. These included the Titanic Belfast, Giant’s Causeway and London Derry. On the back of that, we started doing large events to get people to come here.

Belfast hosted the MTV Awards, the Irish Open, and the World Peace and Fire games. When we had these big events we saw how much the community got behind them. These big events spoke to the new Northern Ireland brand, which embodies people and a society ready to move forward.

The logical extension to this is the Waterfront Exhibition Centre, which allows us to invite people who might not have thought about Northern Ireland to a new purpose-built venue.

How did it feel when it all came together?

It was magical. When the Waterfront was first built, they didn’t put the exhibition centre on for cost reasons, but that was good because if they had they wouldn’t have made it to the sufficient style and size to what the events industry currently needs.

This really is now the full metal jacket for a corporate event offering. You can see with the energy that has gone into the marketing plan for it and now there is an industry that is very hungry to attract new business.

What does the new exhibition centre mean for the future of Belfast?

The future is bright. You can see around the city there are new offices and new hotels springing up and you can see that the share of people coming to Ireland that are travelling to Northern Ireland is increasing year-on-year.

They’re coming from new destinations, too, like France, Germany and Asia. This is as well as the traditional countries like South Africa and United States.

What separates Belfast from its UK competition?

I suppose for too long Belfast has not been on the radar because people think of hosting their conference on the same landmass. Actually [coming to Northern Ireland] has a huge benefit because when coming to Belfast there is a sense of retreat and delegates get to fully immerse themselves in the conference. We still pride ourselves on being the one place in the UK that delegates can get to quicker than anywhere else.

More:

In Pictures: Belfast Waterfront preview

Belfast secures record £13m from events

Bullitt boutique property planned for Belfast

Belfast Waterfront development nears completion

• For more breaking news, as well as in-depth features and case studies, sign up to C&IT Magazine's daily Newstracker here

Have you registered with us yet?

Register now to enjoy more articles
and free email bulletins.

Register now
Already registered?
Sign in

Freeman APAC appoints new head of creative services

Freeman APAC appoints new head of creative services

The award-winning creative will lead the agency’s experiential campaigns for the Asia Pacific region.

5 bad leadership habits to avoid when managing a team remotely

5 bad leadership habits to avoid when managing a team remotely

Don't let certain behaviours slip into your leadership style unchecked, says CEO of Authentic Change Solutions.

How to take your events outdoors

How to take your events outdoors

MD of Gazeboshop explains how to make the most of outdoor facilities and comply with social distancing.

LIVE UPDATES: Norway allows business travellers from Nordic neighbours

LIVE UPDATES: Norway allows business travellers from Nordic neighbours

Find out which countries are on partial or national lockdown, what travel restrictions are in place and what size gatherings are allowed.

How coronavirus will affect financing in the hospitality sector

How coronavirus will affect financing in the hospitality sector

The best course of action for any borrower is to find out what flexibility there is, says legal expert James Stripe.

RSVP podcast Ep1: Accidental nudity, selfish people and lullabies from Adele

RSVP podcast Ep1: Accidental nudity, selfish people and lullabies from Adele

Guests reveal their best experiences and react to anonymous industry confessions in our first-ever podcast for event and travel professionals.

Why Copenhagen is the perfect destination post-pandemic

Denmark's capital is walkable, clean, sustainable – and most importantly, happy

Can biosecurity teams save events?

Can biosecurity teams save events?

The industry will need a range of biosecurity measures if physical events are to return soon, says Smyle's Matt Holliday.

'We miss exhausted grins, red-eye flights and bad coffee': 15 love letters to events

'We miss exhausted grins, red-eye flights and bad coffee': 15 love letters to events

Industry insiders share what they miss most about live events while they are stuck at home.

Hong Kong Convention Centre holds first event since lockdown

Hong Kong Convention Centre holds first event since lockdown

The venue put stringent hygiene measures and body temperature screening in place to hold a three-day exhibition.