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Third conference in Northern Ireland is cancelled over coronavirus concerns

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Hospitality Ulster’s Colin Neill

Hospitality Ulster’s Colin Neill

Hospitality Ulster’s Colin Neill

A third major international conference due to take place in Belfast has been cancelled as a result of fears over the spread of coronavirus.

Tourism NI confirmed it had axed the Meet the Buyer event which was due to take place on March 24 at the ICC Belfast, with 162 international buyers to attend.

A spokeswoman for the agency said cancelling the event had become the only realistic option after a review and a number of parties who'd been expected to attend had already pulled out.

Tourism NI said it "continues to closely monitor the situation regarding coronavirus (Covid-19)".

"We are working closely with our stakeholders to monitor the impacts on the ground, conduct ongoing research and link to the Department for the Economy and the Executive to inform a wider governmental response," the spokesperson added.

"We will be working with our partners in Tourism Ireland and Failte Ireland and will seek to replace Meet the Buyer with virtual networking opportunities over the coming months as well as exploring future events."

Tourism NI said full refunds for registration fees for the event will be issued over the coming weeks.

Colin Neill, chief executive of Hospitality Ulster, said he fully supports the decision.

"Whilst it is disappointing that the Meet the Buyer event has been cancelled, we recognise that Tourism NI will have taken this difficult decision after fully considering all available information and taking into account people's willingness to travel," he said.

"We fully support their decision and believe this is the correct action in a developing situation.

"We wish to reassure both visitors and locals that our industry is taking every precaution and has increased our already high standards of hygiene.

"We will continue to act on all Government advice and our pubs, restaurants and hotels remain open for business."

It's the third big event to be cancelled in two days. On Tuesday it emerged that the Royal Economic Society and e-commerce organisation eComm had also cancelled events due to take place in April.

The Royal Economic Society said the decision followed constant monitoring of the situation by Royal Economic Society officers and staff and had taken into account the latest available information.

It added that the 2021 annual conference would be held at Queen's University.

Meanwhile, the organisers behind e-commerce event eComm Live 2020 have rescheduled it to September 23 and 24.

Belfast Telegraph