Cork has broken into the top 100 European conference destinations for the first time.
The city has also surged up the rankings of global conference venues according to the International Congress and Convention Association (ICCA).
In 2015, the ICCA ranked Cork in 335th place worldwide.
But thanks to a bumper 2016 conference season overseen by the Cork Convention Bureau (CCB) which helped attract over 8,000 delegates generating some €11.5m for the local economy, the city has now jumped to 186th place in the global rankings.
It has also broken into Europe’s top 100 for the first time — jumping from 167th place to 98.
CCB chairman Seamus Heaney described the surge as a magnificent achievement given the competition the city faces in terms of conference and hotel facilities, and air access from other large European cities.
“This year we’re sharing spots with cities such as Houston, Johannesburg, Leeds and Belfast, which is very impressive for somewhere the size of Cork,” he said.
Mr Heaney said while breaking into Europe’s top 100 would boost the city’s reputation as an international conference venue, having a large-scale events centre and hotels with 300-bed capacity would help the city do so much more.
The development of the long-awaited 6,000-seat events centre on the former Beamish and Crawford site would be transformative, he said.
“Every conference we bid for is under 1,000 delegates and is normally around the 700-delegate mark,” he said.
“Last year, conferences booked through our office generated around €11.5m for the economy. If we had a large-scale event or conference centre venue, it would mean that we could bid for the large-scale conferences and we could at least double the amount of conference-generated business for the city.
“We could see conferences generating between €22m and maybe even as much as €30m with that type of infrastructure.”
Fáilte Ireland welcomed the ICCA rankings which saw Dublin climb five places to 13th in the global league table, having hosted 118 international association conferences last year. The capital is ranked 10th in Europe.
Ireland is ranked 26th worldwide, up six places from 2015 and 16th in Europe. The ICCA ranked Paris, with 196 events, in top slot followed by Vienna (186), Barcelona (181), Berlin (176) and London (153). The CCB will attend a trade event in Frankfurt next week as it continues selling the city to international conference organisers.
Up to 20 conference events, from corporate meetings to academic and association conferences, are due to take place this year, with each delegate estimated to spend an average of around €1,645 on accommodation, food and drink, and souvenirs.
The city is due to host 1,000 delegates at the third UNESCO international learning cities conference in September, an event previously held in Beijing and Mexico.
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