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Hospitality Exchange – NI’s largest tourism and hospitality event hailed a great success

Posted 26 Oct, 2021

Hospitality Exchange has been a highlight of the tourism and hospitality industry calendar for the last two decades.Taking place at the Crowne Plaza Hotel on October 12 and 13, the two-day conference offered a cocktail of analysis, advice and support for the hotel and hospitality industry following possibly the most challenging period in recent history.

The 2021 event had three central themes: Reflect, Recruit and Restore. The programme considered the previous success of the sector, the challenges of staffing in a new era and how to restore trading to its £1bn pre pandemic levels of spend. This year’s high-profile and experienced speaker line-up ensured that delegates got practical guidance with insights covering this year’s three themes.

The economic outlook and tourism recovery was brought to life by EY Chief Economist Neil Gibson. Tourism chiefs, Niall Gibbons and John McGrillen looked at future success alongside Michael Williamson, Director of Consulting Services at ASM Chartered Accountants.

The event saw the launch of a specially commissioned report from the Northern Ireland Hotels Federation (NIHF), as well as an update on trading from international benchmarking company STR’s Sarah Duignan.

Stephen Meldrum, President of the Northern Ireland Hotels Federation, said: “Hospitality Exchange 2021's line-up was one of our most impressive yet and it was a significant milestone for the industry.

“With easements due to come into effect as of October 31st, the hotel and hospitality sector continues to work collaboratively with key stakeholders. The industry is very much on the pathway to recovery.

“The last eighteen months have undoubtedly been challenging and we appreciate the business stimuli and marketing support that will assist the sector during the quieter winter months. We also enjoyed a successful Staycation Summer which will help the industry to survive.

“Hospitality Exchange 2021 is very much about looking to the future. Our plan is to acknowledge the challenges and impact of COVID-19, while looking at solutions and learning how businesses are addressing them and moving forward.

Economy Minister Gordon Lyons MLA addressed this year’s conference, highlighting the importance of the sector to the Northern Ireland economy: “I was very pleased to be able to address the Hospitality Exchange in person after what has been a truly challenging period for the tourism and hospitality sector. In the year before Covid, Northern Ireland welcomed 5 million overnight visitors, generating more than £1 billion in spend. I want to see the sector rebuild and renew so that we can reach, and exceed, those levels in the future. My Department’s Tourism Recovery Action Plan has been developed in partnership with the industry and sets out a practical way ahead for achieving this vision.

“I want to pay tribute to businesses in the tourism and hospitality sector for their resilience and their creativity in maximising the opportunities that are arising as we move forward. These attributes will stand us in good stead as society continues to reopen, and we can look ahead with real optimism.”

NIHF Report is available to view and download here