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Business events off as Flybe collapse and coronavirus fears deliver double blow


Discussions: Joanne Stuart of NITA

Discussions: Joanne Stuart of NITA

Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press E

Discussions: Joanne Stuart of NITA

The combined impact of the collapse of Flybe and fears over coronavirus are leading to cancellations of business meetings and events, it has emerged.

The administration of Flybe and loss of 14 routes into Belfast City Airport means some visitors from Britain have cancelled their attendance at events because no convenient travel alternative can be found.

And other business gatherings are being impacted by coronavirus as companies impose restrictions on their staff to prevent its potential spread.

This week fintech company Fintru cancelled an event at Riddel Hall to mark International Women's Day.

The company's website said: "Due to recent travel restrictions and in the interest of health and safety, Fintru has taken the decision to postpone the lecture series event.

"We are looking into holding this event at a later date."

Things have moved very quickly over the past week and we may start to see a challenge in confirming future conferences too, because customers want to see how the situation develops first Joanne Stuart, NI Tourism Alliance

Joanne Stuart of the NI Tourism Alliance (NITA) said we were "open and ready to welcome business", but that business depends on how willing delegates are to travel to Northern Ireland.

"Currently there is no government guidance with regards to cancelling events and it's a case by case basis that depends on delegates, who they are and where they are travelling from," she said.

"Things have moved very quickly over the past week and we may start to see a challenge in confirming future conferences too, because customers want to see how the situation develops first."

Ms Stuart said the NITA was in discussions with the Executive to make sure any lost links from airline Flybe's demise are replaced as soon as possible.

However, other events, including a conference yesterday of 500 women organised by the Institute of Directors in Northern Ireland to celebrate International Women's Day, have gone ahead.

And a get-together of 120 people linked with global business travel organisation HelmsBriscoe is also going ahead at Hilton Belfast as planned this weekend.

However, the Institute of Fundraising in Belfast said it had cancelled a briefing in the city by its chief executive Peter Lewis due to the collapse of Flybe.

Meanwhile, a fresh announcement of replacement airlines on routes from Belfast City Airport following the demise of Flybe could come as early as next week.

Carriers including easyJet and Aer Lingus Regional are understood to be in the frame for some destinations and British Airways is seen as a likely contender to fill in the London City route.

BA had no comment to make, while easyJet said it was "still too early for us to evaluate any future opportunities".

Eastern Airways this week starts flights to Teesside International Airport from Belfast City Airport.

It also covers destinations previously served by Flybe, including Leeds Bradford, London City, Cardiff and Southampton.

However, it is regarded as a small airline which may not have the capacity to expand to fill further routes from Belfast City.

A spokesman did not return a request for comment about whether it might fill other routes.

Meanwhile, Guernsey-based airline Aurigny has announced it will take over two routes to Exeter and Birmingham from the island following Flybe's collapse.

Scottish airline Loganair has said it will take over Aberdeen and Inverness from Belfast and its chief executive has indicated it could also move to fly on the routes to Glasgow and Edinburgh at a later date.

Gerry Lennon, chief executive of Visit Belfast, which attracts business visitors to the city, said: "Air connectivity has been a key factor in Belfast's tourism renaissance, providing affordable access in to Northern Ireland from a range of regional and international destinations.

"Flybe's 14 routes provided a fifth of annual seat capacity into the region from our main market in Great Britain.

"With over 1.7m visitors annually, tourism generates over £395m each year for the city economy and supports 19,000 jobs, so it is imperative that industry and government work together to minimise the impact," he added.

Belfast Telegraph

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