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Cork conference ‘ambassadors’ honoured amid renewed call for events centre progress

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From The Irish Examiner.

Conference “ambassadors” who helped generate €10m for Cork’s economy this year have been honoured amid renewed calls for delivery of the city’s long-awaited events centre.

The Cork Convention Bureau (CCB), a public-private partnership which promotes the region as a destination for business tourism, meetings, and conferences, said the delivery of the 6,000-capacity venue on South Main St could see the city treble the value of business it could generate annually.

CCB chairman Seamus Heaney made his comments as the CCB paid tribute to 36 ambassadors at its annual Cork Conference Ambassadors programme awards.

“More than 75% of all business events in Ireland come here with the help of an ambassador. This is an opportunity to show appreciation to our Cork ambassadors and to acknowledge the dedication they display in championing our city and county on a global stage,” said Mr Heaney.

They were instrumental in attracting 7,000 delegates — 80% of whom were overseas visitors — to events during the year, bringing to almost €100m the amount of business generated by the “ambassadors programme” since its establishment in 2007.

Mr Heaney said that success in the absence of a large-scale events and conference centre in the city highlights the vast untapped potential.

“We are not bidding for events over 1,200 people, really. But we have a lot of international interest from people considering staging big conferences here in two or three years — that’s the lead-in time,” said Mr Heaney.

“For example, for next year, the Silver Springs Hotel will host an aquaculture conference for 1,200 people, with the display element being hosted in a marquee on the hotel grounds.

“Being able to host a 1,500 or 2,000 [person] conference would be a game-changer for us,” he said.

Several ambassadors were singled out for special recognition, including Cian Desmond, from the MaREI Centre, who helped bring 800 leading wind energy scientists and engineers to a conference which generated €1.3m for the region.

Orla Flynn, of Cork Institute of Technology, and Michael Linehan, of the Industrial Internet Consortium, were honoured for securing the Smart Manufacturing Forum conference in May.

The Corporate Meeting Award went to Paul Ryan, Jason O’Callaghan, and Meagan Gould O’Sullivan of Qualcomm for landing the GSoC 2019 International Conference.

The Sporting Event Award went to Sean O’Callaghan, Helen Mulcahy, and Aileen Murray, representing Cork County Council, for securing the Ironman Triathlon in Youghal in June. It was the largest ever triathlon event in Ireland and was worth almost €8m to the region.

Eric Moore, of the Tyndall National Institute, University College Cork, was presented with a special recognition award for his “exemplary commitment” to bringing international conferences to Cork over the last six years.