Although notoriously split between the north and south, the second largest island in the British Isles is far from divided. Richard Trenchard explores Ireland for international PAs
WHICHEVER WAY you look at it – not least professionally – Ireland as a whole offers a stunning mix of cutting edge urban areas and blissfully unspoilt rural destinations, ensuring that whether here for a business retreat or city centre conference, there’s no lack of options.
Both the North and Republic mean serious business. Whilst the former may lag behind the latter when it comes to GDP and output, what Dublin (in the Republic) boasts in high-tech industry, web commerce and digital media, Belfast (in the North) matches for stability. Suffering far less financial fallout from 2008’s Great Recession, buffered by the UK’s more resilient economy overall and avoiding a catastrophic plummet in the housing market, Belfast managed to claim the title of the fastest growing city in its country, economically, during 2015.
GETTING IN AND GETTING AROUND
For those arriving from outside the island, Ireland has three main points of entry. Belfast itself boasts two airports; George Best Belfast City and Belfast International. The first primarily offers flights to other UK destinations, in addition to services to Amsterdam Schipol, via KLM, and Reykjavik Keflavik with Icelandair – both of these being key transfer terminals for flights to the USA, Americas and Asia. The larger of the two, Belfast International, provides more routes across Europe, although for long-haul services it’s likely passengers will still have a layover in Heathrow, Gatwick, or Manchester.
Dublin, by comparison, is far better equipped for those looking to reach destinations further afield. The city’s international airport not only offers a host of routes worldwide, it’s also one of just two airports in Europe to offer US border control pre-clearance for passengers. The other is Shannon, located just outside Limerick; the third major point of entry to the country.
Once on the island, public transport is limited, consisting of trains and buses between the larger towns and cities, so most visitors prefer to travel by car. Although be warned: congestion is an issue, so allow plenty of time for your boss to get around, even with the relaxed timekeeping this corner of the globe is famous for.
BEYOND THE CAPITALS
Chances are, if you’re tasked with organising travel and accommodation for a business trip to Ireland, whether Northern or the Republic, you’ll be focusing on the capitals: Belfast and Dublin respectively. However, there are plenty of other options for business events. For example Derry, in the north is rapidly becoming a firm favourite with conference clientele.
The city has its own Opera House and Grand Victorian Convention Centre, which can hold up to 6,000 alone. Meanwhile, looking to the south, the picturesque city of Cork and the laidback creative hub of Galway, are perennially popular. And for good reason, too. The latter boasts the National University of Ireland – with the former matching with its 6,000 capacity Cork Events Centre – not to mention having a globally renowned events calendar that includes the Galway International Arts Festival; a fantastic backdrop to any professional event.
When all is said and done, Dublin takes the crown in terms of facilities for major conferences and expos. The city is home to the Royal Dublin Society, a 12,000 capacity space for exhibitions and significant meets. Then you have the ultra-modern Convention Centre and, in real contrast, the historic Castle Convention Centre. Until recently, Belfast lagged behind, although thanks to some £29million ($50million) spent on redeveloping vast areas of the northern capital – not least the waterfront – it’s now competing on a European level. Impressive venues include Titanic Belfast, SSE Arena, and award-winning Waterfront Hall.
If there’s one area that Ireland, both Republic and Northern, still struggles with when it comes to business travellers, it’s accommodation. Belfast may have had an upgrade in terms of hotel options, but it remains limited with only 4,885 rooms expected to be available across the entire area by 2018. Dublin fares better, but still offers just 12,000. So, confirming where your boss is staying should be the first priority once attendance is definite. Outside these two hubs, the story is much the same, although with less demand.
AFTER THE HANDSHAKE
If the combination of the Republic and Northern Ireland offers an abundance of possibilities in a professional context, then this is multiplied when it comes to recreation. With so many choices in terms of culture, shopping, cuisine and countryside, it should go without saying that a good PA understands business in this part of the world should never be just business.
Starting from the top, Derry boasts some incredible architectural gems, such as the Guildhall and the city walls themselves. Belfast, meanwhile, is a hotbed for modern history buffs, as a tour of the street art associated with The Troubles proves. Or, for something less hard-hitting, make the glistening glass dome of Victoria Square – more retail destination than mall – part of your boss’ itinerary.
Further south, Dublin’s Temple Bar area is renowned for its pub and bar scene, with live gigs in abundance, often without advertisement. Meanwhile, the Antiques Quarter is one of the planet’s finest spots to pick up genuine rare finds; albeit at a price. Elsewhere, Cork’s English Market is an experience in itself, and Crane Lane Theatre is a must for those who enjoy al fresco drinks, music, and atmosphere.
A PA in the know
Shireen Dallas, a PA in a top Dublin law firm, has some advice for colleagues charged with Irish business bookings: “Bear in mind the Irish tend to be fashionably late for the start of conferences, meetings and talks. So, don’t be overly concerned if your boss is running behind or the plane was delayed. I’d suggest arriving a day or two before or staying on a little longer to do some sightseeing and explore the area. Research the area where the event is being held as sometimes a taxi is the only way to get to the venue.”
Visa: No visa is required for Australian citizens
Passport: Yes and it must be valid for the entire stay
Currency: Euros in the Republic and sterling in Northern Ireland
Travel time: Approx 21 hours if travelling direct Perth to Dublin
Driving: New legal limits were introduced in October 2011. For fully licensed drivers the limit is 50mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood
Climate: Mild with plenty of rainfall. As its weather is influenced by the Atlantic Ocean it doesn’t experience extremes of temperature. Average temp is 10 degrees Celsius
Time difference: Canberra ACT is nine hours ahead of Dublin and there are no time zones across Ireland.