Since joining the ICC Belfast team, I've been counting down the days to when I would be heading off to IBTM, one of the world’s largest trade shows in the MICE industry. I love to travel and meet new people and the great thing about working at ICC Belfast is that it gives me the opportunity to travel all over the world to build lasting relationships with industry professionals.
IBTM Barcelona is a global event that aims to inspire the events world to deliver exceptional experiences. It was a fantastic opportunity for me, along with the rest of Team Belfast, to showcase Belfast as a conference destination to high-profile international buyers. The ‘Meet in Ireland’ stand was full of ‘craic’ and the atmosphere was electric. It was a great chance to come together and show the rest of the world what Ireland has to offer. From the Irish hospitality, to our sheep mascots and even a few pints of Guinness, we really made an impression on the buyers at the show.
I hopped on the Aircoach on Monday afternoon with my ‘wee’ flask of tea and a packet of cheese and onion Tayto (obviously), and 90 minutes later I arrived at Dublin airport.
I arrived in Barcelona full of excitement for the days ahead. Day one began with a briefing from the Meet in Ireland team during which they explained how the week would run. ICC Belfast's Director of Sales and Marketing, Oonagh O’Reilly also gave a presentation with IAPCO on this day all about ‘how to stir up your marketing mix’ and how the team have implemented ‘digital first’ tactics to overhaul our marketing approach.
The first day was a success with back-to-back appointments and meetings with buyers. I loved listening to industry professionals talk about their organisation and the events they hold. We discussed the importance of stand-out events and how every conference should be better than the last. I spoke about how we are all in the business of creating emotional connections, and through live events and a strong social programme, organisers can connect with their clients, delegates and exhibitors on a deeper level.
That evening Team Belfast attended a dinner in Los Caracoles, a little Spanish restaurant just off Las Ramblas. We were greeted by extremely friendly staff, sampled some delicious Spanish tapas and to top it off, were entertained by a rousing flamenco performance.
On day two we were back with a bang, with many more insightful meetings lined up. The buzz around the Meet in Ireland stand was incredible during the day, as everyone was getting ready for our Irish House Party that evening. I don’t think there was a single buyer or supplier at IBTM that didn’t know about our party. The banjos were getting tuned, the Guinness keg was being put into position and the Irish dancers were tightening their pumps. As soon as the clock struck 5.30pm, the briefcases were swapped for pints and the toe-tapping and hand-clapping commenced.
Everyone that passed by our stand, got a glimpse of what Irish hospitality is all about. Some even joined in on the Céilí. We danced the evening away and made ourselves feel at home.
The whole team then headed out to dinner, hosted by Failté Ireland and the craic from the day continued long into the night, with plenty of stories and songs. And sure wouldn’t you know we’d go to Barcelona and end up in an Irish bar? As the saying goes, you can take the people out of Ireland…
It is amazing how a night of singing and dancing can really bring people closer together. The last day of the show was when we realised that in just three days, we had built lasting relationships with one another. We understood that, despite the long days, aching feet and tired voices, we had created something special that not everyone gets the chance to do, and that by showcasing Ireland on the world stage, we can in turn, bring the world to Ireland.