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The University of Ulster is bringing one of the world’s leading experts on event tourism to speak at a major conference during Northern Ireland’s year in the spotlight.

Donald Getz, Professor Emeritus of the University of Calgary, Canada, is the author of book ‘Event Studies’, a bible for tourism students across the globe.

He will be speaking at the University’s first International Conference on Tourism and Events: Opportunities, Impacts and Change in June.

Professor Getz’s advice for tourism chiefs in Northern Ireland is to maximise every event opportunity in 2012.

He said: “It is a great year for Northern Ireland when so many special events are held that can capture the world's attention. But there is a need for leveraging each and every event, for a long-term event tourism strategy to be developed and the management of a portfolio of events, both permanent and one-time.

“Every major event provides an opportunity for positive image-building, but getting the desired media coverage of events does not occur by chance - sophisticated media management is required. As well, benefits can be generated for the local and regional economy, but the event has to be leveraged for maximum impact. This can be done by bringing in the business community and working out a strategy to increase the yield from every visitor, keep them longer and encourage them to spend more locally.

“When thinking long-term strategy, attention must be given to building ‘Hallmark Events’. These permanent institutions are co-branded with the destination or city, and ensure that ‘image-building’ is ongoing for example, in America the Kentucky Derby Festival. One Hallmark Event can easily be worth many one-time events to build a good reputation. And Hallmark Events are rooted in the community, becoming traditions supported by residents.

“Increasingly destinations have to manage events like other capital assets, with each one in the portfolio achieving specific, and sometimes different returns on investment. In this portfolio approach a single event plays its role, while the overall collection of event assets achieves many goals. It requires a new way of thinking about bidding on, and cultivating permanent events.”

Dr Una McMahon-Beattie, Head of Department of Hospitality and Tourism Management at the University’s Ulster Business School, said: “This was the perfect year to bring the world’s best tourism minds together in Belfast.The conference will play host to leading international tourism academics, industry practitioners and policy makers to debate and showcase innovative and best practice for further progression of the local tourism and events industry in Northern Ireland.

“The momentum gathering pace with the opening of our two new world class visitor centres, Titanic and Giant’s Causeway, coupled with the blossoming of golf tourism potential with the Irish Open championship and the proposed new £100 million gold resort on the north coast needs to be embraced, developed and driven forward in the right direction if Northern Ireland is to leverage maximum potential from such opportunities.”

The University of Ulster’s conference will be held in the Europa Hotel from June 20 to 22.

Other leading industry speakers at the conference will include Phil Evans, Policy Manager of Visit England, Jon Weaver, Tourism and events Manager, Bournemouth Tourism, Paul Simpson, Director of Visit Manchester, Chris Foy, Head of 2012 Games Unit, Visit Britain and Kenneth Wardrop, former CEO, Destination Edinburgh Marketing Alliance Ltd.

Professor Getz’s new book ‘Event Tourism’ will be published later this year. He is also a part-time Professor at the University of Queensland, Australia and Norwegian School of Hotel Management, University of Stavanger, Norway.