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Q&A with Dr Mike Johnston MBE, joint chair of the Local Organising Committee for the IDF World Dairy Summit 2017
Northern Ireland’s capital city will play host to the IDF World Dairy Summit for the first time this month. The 6-day event will take place from 29 October – 3 November 2017. Agri-food remains one of Northern Ireland's largest manufacturing sectors and it is expected that this event will generate £1.54m for the local economy.
We caught up with Mike to find out why he believes Belfast Waterfront is ‘tailor-made’ for the World Dairy Summit.
This is the first time Belfast is hosting the World Dairy Summit. Why did you choose Belfast as your host destination?
My role in representing UK at the annual ‘World Dairy Summit’ for the last 20 years has given me real insight into what other destinations have to offer. And in my opinion, given the fantastic new conference facilities at Belfast Waterfront and the city’s expanding hotel infrastructure, Belfast is a world class destination and can stand in any company.
Another plus is many of the hotels are within walking distance from the Waterfront and in promoting Belfast we made a big thing of this. At a previous event coaches had to be organised to transport delegates from their hotel to the venue.
The city has what it takes to compete on a global stage alongside previous host destinations like Rotterdam, Vilnius, Auckland, Yokohama and Cape Town.
How many delegates will be attending the IDF World Dairy Summit and where will they be travelling from?
The summit typically attracts 1,000+ delegates from 50 countries. There will be strong delegations this year from China, Australia, Japan and Chile.
Many delegates are no strangers to the city. They have already sampled our famous Northern Irish hospitality while attending previous IDF events held in Belfast, and are delighted to have the opportunity to explore more of what the city has to offer.
What do you think of Belfast Waterfront’s new facilities?
Fantastic. You would think the venue had been ‘tailor-made’ for our event.
The venue’s 3 multi-purpose meeting rooms can more than accommodate our 3 parallel conference sessions per day. And its impressive 2,000-seat auditorium will provide a stunning backdrop for our opening ceremony. We have a spectacular entertainment programme of talented local artists lined up including our very own West End singing star Peter Corry, who I know will deliver a superb performance.
In essence if it had not been for the new state-of-the-art facilities at Belfast Waterfront and the city’s new hotel infrastructure, we wouldn’t have considered hosting our event in Belfast. Belfast Waterfront facilities are as good as and better than most international venues.
What do you hope to achieve at the Summit this year?
This year’s annual World Dairy Summit provides us with an opportunity to showcase and engage with local dairy companies. In addition to this, we will be running technical tours to CAFRE (College of Agriculture, Food and Rural Enterprise), AFBI (Agri-Food and Bio-sciences Institute) Queen's University Belfast, Devenish Nutrition’s farm in Down, and Ulster University allowing delegates to further explore the local dairy industry and related specialisms.
Will your delegates get an opportunity to explore Belfast and the rest of Northern Ireland?
We have planned an impressive social programme for our delegates. Throughout the 6-day event they will experience the diverse range of venues and restaurants the city has to offer. Our social programme boasts some of Belfast’s most iconic buildings including: Titanic Belfast, Belfast City Hall, Ulster Museum and Belfast Harbour Commissioners Headquarters.
Also our partners have an opportunity to choose from a number of award winning tours of Belfast and beyond - Belfast City Tour and Giants Causeway & Antrim Coast Tour. And for those ‘Game of Thrones’ fans amongst our delegation they’re in for a real treat with the Game of Thrones Westeros Tour.
Mike, thank you so much for taking time out of your busy schedule to tell us more about your upcoming conference. The team at Belfast Waterfront can’t wait to welcome you and your delegates to the city.