“Ireland. It’s the one place on earth that heaven has kissed with melody, mirth, and meadow and mist.” - Irish Blessing
I certainly felt blessed to experience all of the above during a recent two-week journey to Ireland, soaking in the country’s local music, its people’s dry wit and gregarious nature, an unending lush landscape, and the persistent drizzle and fog that help sustain its striking 40 shades of green.
That spirit also reflects in its business culture, as inimitable venues and experiences welcome groups.
“Over the last five years, Ireland has had cumulative growth of 35 percent in the business tourism sector,” said Tourism Ireland, North America Executive Vice President Alison Metcalfe. “It is estimated there will be over 100 meetings and other business events in Ireland this year, involving 25,000-plus visitors and generating millions for the economy.”
Meet in Ireland is the official MICE brand, comprised of three tourism authorities: Tourism Ireland, Failte Ireland and Tourism Northern Ireland.
Vibrant Dublin is as lively and jovial as any traditional Irish pub. Its Temple Bar hearkens New Orleans’ French Quarter at Mardi Gras, while its downtown core impresses with epic libraries and museums, and parks filled with statues and written markers documenting the country’s challenging past.
“What is unique about Dublin is not a landmark like many other cities, it is its people,” said Sam Johnston, manager of the Dublin Convention Bureau. “The friendly locals will make delegates feel welcome while those working in the meetings industry have a passion and a pride, meaning they want your event to be the best ever.”
Ireland’s capital city is easy to get to, with 55 airlines from 180 destinations, and the airport only 20 minutes from the city center.
One of Europe’s most visited attractions, Dublin’s Guinness Storehouse, serves as both a repository for Dublin’s famed beer and a group venue.
“There is only one ‘Home of Guinness’ where you can taste the freshest pint of the ‘Black Stuff’ anywhere and learn the art of pouring it,” Johnston said. “You can completely take over the
Guinness Storehouse, Ireland’s top visitor attraction, with a capacity for up to 2,000, or do something very intimate in the Connoisseur Bar, where 12 people can learn about the derivations of Guinness and pair them with foods.”
Dublin also offers groups access to its castles, cathedrals and art galleries, according to Johnston. The oldest-built structure in Dublin, the crypt in Christ Church Cathedral, opens to groups for a private dinner or pre-dinner drinks before partaking in a gala banquet in the nave of the Cathedral.
Saint Patrick’s Cathedral, the largest cathedral in Ireland, can host seated dinners for up to 300 and cocktail receptions for up to 1,000. The recently renovated Lady Chapel provides a more intimate setting.
In Trinity College groups can see the famed Book of Kells—an illustrated manuscript from the 9th century—then move upstairs to the barrel-vaulted ceiling Long Room Library for drinks before crossing the cobbled courtyard for dinner in the Dining Hall, according to Johnston.
Just as prominent on the city’s landscape, Dublin Castle offers groups use of its conference, reception and dining facilities. The city’s National Gallery of Ireland also caters to groups for receptions and dinners.
Among the city’s updates, the former Old Jameson Distillery recently underwent a major refurbishment and reopened as Jameson Distillery Bow Street.
Citywest Hotel is undergoing a multimillion-dollar upgrade, and the Hilton Garden Inn is adding an additional floor of 85 rooms to take it to 324 in total. Trinity City Hotel is adding an extra 60 rooms.
Whether it’s a fiddler on a high-wire serenading pedestrians below with a rendition of Fiddler on the Roof or a three-piece belting out traditional Irish folk tunes, bustling, bohemian Galway is a group magnet.
Walking the city is a prime attraction, including the promenade along Galway Bay and to the city’s renowned Spanish Arch, dating to 1584.