by Lisa A. Grimaldi | June 26, 2018
Northern Ireland's legendary hospitality and top-notch meeting and incentive offerings were on display during the sixth Hosts Global Forum, the DMC group's annual client event. The forum kicked off at the Titanic Belfast, an attraction dedicated to the infamous ship that was built in the city, with a welcome from Marty MacKay, president of Hosts Global's alliance of destination management companies, Tourism Northern Ireland CEO John McGrillen and a CSR activity -- packing member welcome kits -- for a local nonprofit organization, the Wave Trauma Centre. The group supports those who were victims of "the Troubles," the 30-year period of political and nationalistic conflict in Northern Ireland that was generally considered to have ended in 1998 with implementation of the Good Friday Agreement. The touching session was followed by an elegant welcome reception (pictured above) steeped in Titanic-era décor, entertainment and cuisine.
The forum's educational sessions, held at the Europa Hotel, delved into topical issues such as VAT reclamation, where speaker Dean Swift noted that US$7 billion in VAT refunds go unclaimed each year. Janet Sperstad, CMP, program director of the Meeting and Event Management Degree at Madison (Wis.) Area Technical College, shared insights on how our moods affect learning and events ("When fear and anxiety go up, critical thinking goes down"). Motivational speaker David Meade engaged the crowd with advice on business best practices, such as "Deliver bad news first, because that's what people most want to hear."
 
Topical breakout sessions were helmed by Sean Donahoo, CEO of Disruptive Solutions, who shared cyber-security tips for meetings; Hosts Global's MacKay spoke on her pet topic, emergency preparedness; Mark Benson, founder, principal and president at Applied Meetings & Hospitality Solutions, discussed how revenue managers look at group business; and Paul Miller, managing director of the Spectra DMC, and Bruce Smith, managing director of London-based Tenax Analytics, updated delegates on how GDPR affects meetings and incentives.
 
Northern Ireland Tourism and host DMC Moloney & Kelly ensured that guests experienced the many faces of the #IncentiveReady destination during afternoon sojourns that included a Belfast Bites tasting adventure, a behind-the-scenes visit of the stunning Hillsborough Castle (used by the British Royal Family when they visit Northern Ireland) and a black-taxi tour of the city's highlights. Guests were welcomed by Lord Mayor Deirdre Hargey to a dinner at Belfast City Hall, then transported into the fantastical land of C.S. Lewis' Narnia that morphed into Game of Thrones' icy North (most of the storylines of the HBO series are filmed in Belfast and Northern Ireland). The final night was a rollicking local treat: The group took over the Dark Horse pub in the city's famed Cathedral Quarter until the wee hours.
 
Perhaps the ultimate bragging rights the planner attendees earned during the event was being the very first guests to stay at the luxurious 300-room Grand Central Hotel Hastings Hotels, which won't make its official debut until next month.