Belfast is currently something of a giant building site with a slew of new venues under construction. In the city-centre Cathedral Quarter, the Merchant Hotel (www.themerchanthotel.com), the former Ulster Bank building, is now a five-star property with 26 regal rooms and 34 more planned, plus a city spa, when a sister property opens close by in 2009. The 18-month-old Merchant has already welcomed Barclays for banqueting events and offers private dining for 18 people in the boardroom and a meeting room for 24 classroom-style. The hotel's Bentley is even on hand for airport transfers.
Also downtown, the Grand Opera House (www.goh.co.uk) has undergone redevelopment with a new wing added in October 2006, at a cost of £10.5m, to complement the original Victorian theatre auditorium, which seats 1,061. An array of new multi-functional spaces have welcomed BT and the Bank of Ireland, while its Baby Grand has been used for product launches and events for 130 delegates theatre-style, or 250 standing if events also use the adjoining balcony bar.
The city's Titanic Quarter, where the ill-fated liner was built, is currently undergoing major redevelopment. Work is due for completion for the centenary of the ship's launch in 2012. As the city centre shifts east, new venues are springing up. The Northern Ireland Science Park's Main Event Room (www.nisp.co.uk) is an auditorium for 140 delegates theatre-style. Microsoft and Citibank are among recent clients for product launches, meetings and dining. The venue collaborates on incentive packages with the nearby Pumphouse, a new museum that documents Belfast's shipbuilding heritage via an AV tour.
Just outside the city, the latest top-end development is the massive expansion of the stately Galgorm Resort & Spa (www.galgorm.com). Located 30 miles north of Belfast, but handy for Belfast International Airport, it has expanded capacity to 75 rooms and, in September, completed a £15m project to add a spa and the only purpose-built conference auditorium in Northern Ireland. The latter accommodates 62 delegates theatre-style, while the wood-paneled Titanic Room has capacity for 20 in a boardroom setting.
DIRECTORY NORTHERN IRELAND
Belfast Visitor & Convention Bureau (BVCB)
Contact: Belinda Hawthorne, 028 9023 9026