Over 750 health professionals and those involved in the care of mothers and babies visited NewcastleGateshead to attend the UNICEF UK Baby Friendly Initiative annual conference, held at the Metro Radio Arena on 26-27 November. Now in its 17th year, the event generated £692,000 for the local economy.
During the two days a mixture of innovative, entertaining and challenging presentations on a wide range of issues supporting breastfeeding were delivered by high profile speakers, including Dr Dan Poulter, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Department of Health, and Dr Helen Ball, Head of Anthropology, Durham University.
NewcastleGateshead Convention Bureau worked with the organising committee to secure the conference for the destination and over the last 18 months has supported with everything from sourcing and booking the venue and accommodation right through to the special touches that ensured a warm welcome for the conference delegates.
Organised by the Bureau, delegates were given the red carpet treatment as they stepped off the train to a welcome committee of students from Newcastle College. The students had a Unicef branded information stand and were on-hand in the station throughout the conference days to give a warm Geordie welcome and provide information on how to get to hotels and the conference venue.
Paul Szomoru, head of business tourism at NewcastleGateshead Convention Bureau said: “Delegates were travelling from all over the UK to attend the conference and this puts our destination in the spotlight. What sets us apart from other business tourism locations is our ability to really make people welcome and feel part of the place, not just a visitor. For many of the delegates, it will have been their first visit to the city and as well as enjoying the conference, we felt it was important that they were provided with a dedicated team on arrival to give that personal welcome and make sure they had all the information they needed to make the most of their time here.”
Elizabeth Freeman, Events and Services Manager, at UNICEF UK, commented: “NewcastleGateshead Convention Bureau has offered such valuable support throughout the whole process of organising the event. On one occasion when we visited the Metro Radio Arena, we were welcomed with a flash mob of breastfeeding mums which was a nice touch and showed a local commitment to the issues that are so important to the Baby Friendly Initiative. Having received such a personal welcome ourselves, we had no doubt that our delegates would love the place. The students and the Convention Bureau really pulled out the stops to make sure that our delegates had the best experience possible while in the city.”