Belfast Telegraph

Blow for Belfast as Web Summit spin-off Moneyconf is cancelled over Northern Ireland's poor air links

By John Mulgrew

One of the biggest global technology events ever to be held here will not return to Belfast next year because of Northern Ireland's poor air links, it can be revealed.

Web Summit spin-off Moneyconf is being moved to the sunnier climes of Madrid, despite earlier assurances from the organisers that the event would be coming back to Belfast.

It drew thousands of visitors and attendees from more than 40 countries when it landed at T13 back in June. It was said to be worth £3.5m to Belfast's economy.

Afterwards, event organiser Paddy Cosgrave said it would be returning in 2016.

But despite setting a firm date of June 20-21, and with the festival even advertising two-for-one deals on tickets for the event in Belfast, it has now been pulled.

The event is a spin-off of the Web Summit - one of Europe's biggest tech festivals. It started in Dublin but is also controversially moving to Portugal.

It is understood that a number of big-name international speakers and attendees had raised issues with getting to Belfast, complaining the flight links to the city were not good enough.

A spokesman for Web Summit told the Belfast Telegraph: "We can confirm that next year Moneyconf will take place in June, in Madrid. Belfast was an amazing venue, and the welcome our attendees received in the city was world-class. Unfortunately, for future growth, we have decided to move to the larger international hub of Madrid."

The majority of technology firms attending the Web Summit events come from outside the UK.

Speaking after this year's event drew to a close, Paddy Cosgrave said that "from being here, I can see that the tech community is very much alive and kicking" and that "Moneyconf has found a home in Belfast".

Visit Belfast's Gerry Lennon said he was "disappointed" by the decision to pull out of Belfast. And he reiterated that the reasons for Moneyconf not returning had included a lack of access for international speakers and delegates.

"In terms of that access, we are an island off an island off a continent," he said.

"Air access and sea access has improved 10-fold, but we want to go to the next level, and we need to look at that."

However, Mr Lennon remained optimistic, and said there were already 43 conferences booked for next year - estimated to bring £30m into the economy.

On top of that, there are also Northern Ireland tech events returning to the city. They include the Icons festival, which this year saw big names from the world of tech and music, including Public Enemy frontman Chuck D, descend on the new Titanic conference centre.

There was controversy earlier this year after Paddy Cosgrave revealed that he was moving the huge Web Summit out of its native Dublin.

That decision came after a war of words between Mr Cosgrave and Taoiseach Enda Kenny.

Last year's event saw the entire RDS site transformed for three days, with thousands descending on Dublin for one of Europe's biggest tech events. Speakers this year include Dell boss Michael Dell, and Facebook's Mike Schroepfer.

Belfast Telegraph

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