In the spotlight: Deborah Collins, Visit Belfast

As the sector begins to welcome back business, we recently caught up with Deborah Collins, Head of Business Tourism at Visit Belfast, to find out what Deborah’s role at Visit Belfast entails and to explore what Belfast and Northern Ireland has to offer as they welcome back visitors. 

Describe your day-to-day duties

As Head of Business Tourism at Visit Belfast, it is my job to oversee the growth of business events in key sectors in Belfast and Northern Ireland, and crucially in COVID times, retaining future booked business. The outworking’s of our latest business plan is really exciting but also challenging, delivering on growth but ensuring that it is both sustainable and inclusive, and that tourism is seen as a force for good with the benefits reaching neighbourhoods, communities, and residents.

Day -to -day my role is incredibly varied as I also carry a sales target alongside my team. I could be onsite with clients at a site visit, pulling together a bid or doing virtual 121’s with my team, monitoring progress against KPI’s and working through our pipeline. We are incredibly fortunate that we were able to pivot overnight to remote working and in that very challenging period, we not only retained 102 events worth £72m in economic impact, but we secured a further £15m of business events.

What inspires you?

I am inspired daily by the resilience of the people of Belfast and Northern Ireland. 20 years ago, tourism was non-existent here, but now it is one of the cornerstones of our economy.  Belfast and Northern Ireland quickly captured the attention of the global travel and events industry, winning awards from Lonely Planet to National Geographic and securing high profile events from One Young World, EmTech Europe (MIT) and the 148th Open. I am confident that despite the challenges we are facing today, our people will continue to offer the warmest of welcomes and the highest quality offerings in experiences, food and accommodation for our visitors.

What has been your favourite event / project to work on?

During the summer of 2020 when the first lockdown was just easing, we decided to pull together a virtual destination showcase of Belfast to show how easy it was to get around and how well we all worked together as a city to pull off hybrid events. It involved me cycling around Belfast with a colleague and a cameraman with the legendary David Meade giving a running commentary. We had so many laughs and it was such a tonic being in the city and meeting everyone from local Chefs to our friends at the ICC Belfast and Titanic Belfast (socially distanced of course!)

What is your favourite thing about your destination?

I have already mentioned the people, so my second favourite thing has to be the food! Northern Irish cuisine is amongst the best in the world but we don’t actually shout about it enough. As an island nation, our seafood is exquisite and our beef and lamb are so good that they are exported all over the world and to some of the most exclusive restaurants in London. Our local producers are so enthusiastic about their produce and this really comes through when you talk to our Chefs as well. The quality of food and value for money is something that visitors and delegates always comment on. There is nothing like fresh oysters and a cold glass of bubbles sitting outside on a sunny day in Belfast!

Why should people visit your destination?

We always go the extra mile for our visitors. Belfast is an easy to get to and easy to get around capital city, where everyone knows everyone. Events are a big deal here and everyone from our taxi drivers, lord mayor, hoteliers and restaurateurs know when an event is in town, ready with their famous welcome, hospitality and ‘craic.’

As we begin to welcome back business, what are you most looking forward to?

We have really missed the ability to show off our destination with FAM trips. Our teams spend a lot of time curating programmes to really maximise the wow factor of Belfast and NI, so we are looking forward to seeing the smiles on people’s faces when we can once again surprise and delight them with the big Belfast welcome!

Where can people go to find out more about your destination and services?

visitbelfast.com or meetbelfast.com. Or please feel free to email me directly at deborahcollins@visitbelfast.com and I would be only too happy to help!