When Belfast’s Grand Central Hotel opened on June 20, the first guests to walk through the doors of the 300-room property were meeting and incentive planners arriving for the 6th annual Hosts Global Forum.
That timing might feel like the group cut it incredibly close (in fact, construction is still underway at the property’s penthouse bar and lounge) but Hosts Global’s president Marty MacKay and her team had been assured by the hotel’s parent company, Hastings Hotel Group, and the event’s other local sponsors—destination management partner Maloney & Kelly and the Northern Ireland Tourist Board—that the hotel would be open and #incentiveready (as NITB’s slogan goes), and indeed it was.
More than 100 buyers from independent planning companies and corporations called the gleaming, new property home during the Forum while execs from the 51 Hosts-affiliated DMCs in attendance and others stayed at Europa, another Hastings property two short blocks away. The Europa was the hub for Forum business—general sessions; short educational breakouts; and 12 one-on-one appointment times slots.
Hosts Global's event included buyers from the U.S. and Canada, and DMCs from around the world, but for many the surprise guest at the event was the city of Belfast itself, which graciously rolled out the welcome mat, with a "hundred thousand welcomes," as the Irish say.
Most attendees hadn’t visited before and many were wowed by the hospitality and moved to learn more about Belfast’s history and to see how the city overall and the hospitality industry in particular has dramatically redeveloped since the Good Friday Peace Agreement in 1998, which ended decades of violence. In the 20 years since, four- and five-star properties have opened around the city, and Belfast’s unique special event venues and local tours can stand up to any destination.
View the gallery to get a sense of the Forum and Belfast as a meeting destination.