Meeting planners who choose British Columbia as the destination for their next big meeting or event will reach new heights with their attending delegates. Canada’s most Western province is blessed with beauty, culture and a great climate year-round.
Its provincial motto, “Splendor without diminishment,” is apparent throughout the vast opportunities for cosmopolitan services amid some of the country’s most beautiful scenery. The mountains lend themselves to great hiking and skiing adventures and the warm-water lakes are perfect for swimming, boating or fishing.
B.C. is the only province in Canada where you could ski and golf on the same day. Therefore, it’s small wonder why B.C. is Canada’s third most populated province (after Ontario and Quebec) with a population of 3.9 million — concentrated in Vancouver (2 million) and Victoria (326,000).
Vancouver and Victoria are also the most popular destinations in the province for meetings and events for their amenities, facilities and opportunities. Whether meeting planners are looking for big-city excitement or small-town charm, Vancouver and Victoria can accommodate any event.
“Vancouver is known for being a cosmopolitan city on the edge of nature,” says Wendy Underwood, manager of travel media relations, International & Trade for Tourism Vancouver. “Meeting planners can access a vast range of hotels, business facilities, fantastic restaurants and cultural pursuits while also taking advantage of the unique venues and activities that the great outdoors offer.”
The upcoming 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games will only further attract visitors and meeting delegates to the area to experience the city’s incredible mountains, sparking ocean and cosmopolitan flair.
One of the city’s greatest attractions that meeting delegates can enjoy during their personal time is Stanley Park. The 1,000-acre park, situated in downtown Vancouver, is within walking distance of most downtown hotels and is a favorite amongst visitors for its woodlands, gardens, flowers, trails, lakes and wildlife.
For health-conscious delegates it’s also a perfect spot for rollerblading, running or simply taking a trek around the area. Stanley Park is also home to beaches, restaurants and the renowned sea wall, an 8.8-kilometre wall that encircles the entire park. The park also encompasses world-famous landmarks including the Lost Lagoon, Siwash Rock, Prospect Point, Beaver Lake, totem poles and the Nine O’Clock Gun.
Another popular attraction in Vancouver is Granville Island, a neighborhood close to downtown that’s known for its fantastic public market and strong arts community. The area, which used to be a derelict industrial park, has transformed into a thriving market and entertainment destination. The Granville Island Public Market is Vancouver’s hub of epicurean delight. The Public Market provides the very best of fresh food including everything from garden-fresh produce to Coho salmon and giant prawns.
In addition to the fantastic food, a tradition and mainstay of the Granville Island experience includes the year-round buskers that serve up great music while delegates visit the area. Visitors can even catch a play while visiting Granville Island as the area offers free outdoor performances throughout the year. And if delegates can’t bring the family along with them, Granville Island also offers a plethora of gifts to choose from.
For more culture, delegates can head to Chinatown (Canada’s largest) a 10-minute walk from the downtown core. The city has a strong Chinese presence as 30 percent of homes in Vancouver speak Mandarin and Cantonese. Delegates who want to experience some Chinese culture can take a guided walking tour, indulge in dim sum or visit the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden.
“It’s always an interesting place to visit,” says Underwood.
Another place of interest includes the Museum of Anthropology, located on the campus of the University of British Columbia. “The museum houses one of the world’s most important collections of Pacific Northwest art in a spectacular building by Vancouver architect Arthur Erickson,” says Underwood.
Highlights of the building include the massive doors at the main entrance, carved in 1976 by four master Gitxsan artists, Walter Harris, Earl Muldoe, Art Sterritt, and Vernon Stephens; the 15-metre glass walls of the Great Hall, beneath which stand towering totem poles from the Haida, Gitxsan, Nisga’a, Oweekeno and other First Nations; the Rotunda, where Bill Reid’s massive sculpture, “The Raven and the First Men” is displayed; and the Koerner Ceramics Gallery, home to 600 pieces of 15th to 19 th Century pottery.
On Vancouver’s north shore, Grouse Mountain and the Capilano Suspension Bridge give visitors an authentic taste of the city’s amazing temperate rainforest and mountain environment. Located just 15 minutes for downtown, Grouse Mountain will give delegates a bird’s eye view of the surrounding area. Delegates can take the Skyride, North America’s largest aerial tramway, and experience a one-mile journey that soars above towering Douglas firs, the city of Vancouver, the sparkling Pacific Ocean, the Gulf Islands and snowy mountain peaks.
Once delegates reach the top, they can indulge in some fine dining at the Observatory restaurant where Chef Dino L. Gazzola serves up scrumptious regional fare. Grouse Mountain also offers an excellent team-building program, which includes mountain orienteering during the summer and snowshoeing during the winter.
For more team-building delegates can also check out the híwus feasthouse and learn about the way of life for the First Nations’ people in an authentic Pacific Northwest Longhouse. The feasthouse becomes a meeting place for students of all ages to interactively discover the ancient customs, legends and rich history of the First Nations People.
For other team-building activities, Vancouver’s Pinnacle Pursuits offers excellent learning and leadership programs, including “Camp Cupcake,” a Martha Stewart inspired program for those who want to stay away from rope bridges and “Bestseller Pursuits,” a program based on principles from best-selling business and personal development books such as “Who Moved My Cheese”.
In addition to great site-seeing and team-building, Vancouver also hosts some great meeting facilities that can accommodate any meeting — big or small.
“Vancouver’s hotels offer excellent options for meeting space, ranging from a boardroom with a view right through to a 15,000-square-foot ballroom,” says Underwood.
The Vancouver Convention and Exhibition Centre at Canada Place is a key meeting destination and is currently undergoing an expansion. The expanded facilities, opening in Spring 2009, will triple the current floor space and boast the largest green roof in Canada.
“Being right over the water and featuring spectacular mountain views, the facility is already winning awards for its eco-friendly design,” says Underwood.
Through a partnership with Bell Canada, the Vancouver Convention and Exhibition Centre has also pledged that the facility will be the most technologically advanced of its kind. Currently, the facility boasts more than 150,000 square feet of highly flexible functioning meeting space. The facility is arranged over two levels and is designed as a series of modules that can be combined or divided to suit any meeting planners’ needs.
Accommodating up to 8,000 reception delegates or up to 6,000 in a banquet setting, the Vancouver Convention and Exhibition Centre offers innovative, first-class cuisine and a range of onsite technological services guaranteed to help make any event successful, including high-speed Internet, portable interactive kiosks, Real Time Video transmission and an in-house information monitor system.
For meeting planners who want to make a splash with their delegates, The Vancouver Aquarium is also a great place to host a meeting or event. Located in the heart of Stanley Park, the Vancouver Aquarium offers a variety of unique gallery options for groups of 50 to 1,200.
“As Canada’s largest aquarium, we have a venue that will offer an intriguing and unforgettable backdrop for your next event or special occasion,” says Leila Iaaich, catering and events manager for the Vancouver Aquarium. “The setting will impress your delegates, they will learn more about the marine life and at the same time they will have tones of fun.”
Delegates can join one of the Aquarium’s Animal Encounters and feed a sea otter or touch a beluga whale. They can also marvel at the energy and grace of the Aquarium’s dolphin show. Delegates can be entertained by the underwater world of the marine animals while indulging in the Aquarium’s in-house catering service. Its creative and inspired menus integrate from its Ocean Wise program, a community initiative promoting sustainable food practices.
Another unique meeting venue in the city includes the Morris J. Wosk Centre for Dialogue. The Morris J. Wosk Centre for Dialogue is located in Vancouver’s waterfront business core, directly across the street from Simon Fraser University’s downtown Harbour Centre campus. It is the only facility in British Columbia certified by the International Association of Conference Centres, ensuring the highest standard of conference meeting space. The Centre’s Asia Pacific Hall features a magnificently restored coffered ceiling and high heritage windows that spill natural light into the Hall.
Ergonomic seating for 154 participants is arranged in concentric rings for maximum interactivity. Each delegate desk is equipped with technology to enhance dialogue and inspire positive outcomes. A floating stairway connects to 10 additional rooms that service six to 100 people in a variety of arrangements from boardrooms to configurable breakout spaces. Each room has natural light, comfortable seating and essential communication links. Alcoves and gallery spaces throughout the centre serve one-to-one and small group encounters. The Concourse Salons accommodate up to 200 people for banquets or receptions.
With Vancouver’s abundance of meeting facilities and recreational activities, it’s easy to see why meetings and conventions held in Vancouver draw an average of a 10 percent higher attendance than other meetings in the province.
“We’re a city right on the edge of the great outdoors,” says Underwood. “Meeting planners love that they’re not restricted in what kind of venue and activity they can offer delegates.”
Victoria, the capital city of British Columbia, rests on the southern most tip of Vancouver Island. It is known for its spectacular gardens, mild climate, historic charm and vibrant downtown. It’s also known as a great place to work and play.
“Victoria is one of those rare ‘lifetime’ places that leave you wanting more,” says Jeanne Holliss, manager, advertising and E-marketing for Tourism Victoria. “The delight beings the moment you arrive, as you are welcomed by our sparkling harbor, historic downtown and friendly ambiance.”
Delegates will be dazzled by Victoria’s downtown where most attractions are accessible, including scenic walkways, cafes, Victorian gardens and the provincial legislative building, which is outlined with more than 3,000 twinkling lights.
Conde’ Naste Traveler Magazine reader’s poll rated Victoria one of the top 10 cities to visit in the world for its shopping, culture and scenery.
To experience the ultimate British tradition, delegates must stop in for high tea at the ivy-covered Fairmont Empress Hotel. The hotel is famous for its elegant Afternoon Tea, which is served to more than 130,000 visitors annually. Delegates can savor tea in the finest tradition, accompanied by fresh seasonal fruit and Chantilly cream, traditional raison scones with thick Jersey cream, strawberry preserves, sandwiches, pastries and tarts — all served with silver service in the elegant Tea Lobby, stately Harbourside Room or intimate Library Lounge.
Not far from the Empress, Miniature World will leave a big impression with visiting delegates.
“The Greatest Little Show on Earth” showcases historic events such as The World of Dickens, The Great Canadian Railway and the Fields of Glory as well as future frontiers including Space 2201. It also serves up a pint-sized Fantasy Land and Frontier Land.
Approximately a 30-minute drive from downtown Victoria is the city’s Butchart Gardens — one of the world’s premier floral show gardens. Its founder, Jennie Butchart, began to shape the landscape in 1904. She established, in the style of the grand estates of the period, several distinct gardens to evoke a range of aesthetic experiences.
An abandoned limestone quarry was transformed into the dramatic Sunken Garden, a reflection of the early 20th-century beautification movement and an exceptional achievement in Canadian gardening history. Through successive generations of the Butchart family, The Gardens has retained much of its original design, and continues the Victorian tradition of seasonally changing the outstanding floral displays.
Besides being a blooming city, Victoria is considered the fittest city in Canada with its host of outdoor adventures including golf, guided tours, biking, hiking and swimming. Vancouver Island has been recognized by National Geographic Magazine as one of the best coldwater diving destinations in the world.
“There are amazing dive sites and dive centres just minutes from downtown,” says Holliss. “If you want to venture further a-field, our coastal hiking trails and wild Pacific beaches are absolutely spectacular.”
For meeting delegates who want to dive into some team-building fun, Victoria offers a plethora of activities to choose from.
The Dragon Boat Challenge is an adventurous way to team-build on the picturesque Gorge Waterway. Ocean River Sports outfit delegates in Hawaiian-style outrigger canoes or kayaks and the “Pull Together” Dragon Boat Challenge provides the opportunity for delegates to experience Canada’s fastest growing water sport while learning the basics and then testing their skills in a race scenario.
Platinum Destination & Event Management serves up a delicious team-building activity with Iron Chefs of the West Coast. This high-energy interactive event brings two of Victoria’s Premiere Chefs head-to-head in a culinary showdown. Delegates will be entertained as each chef prepares their favorite dishes on the spot, using a number of “secret ingredients” they are given on the night of the competition. Delegates can get into the action and slip on an apron and act as sous-chef. They will learn a variety of cooking techniques while helping — and hopefully not hindering — the guest chef. After the meal is completed, colleagues can act as judges and decide on the best fare.
For delegates who’d often like to vote their co-workers off the island, The Canadian Outback Adventure Company has recreated nine of the challenges as seen on the popular reality TV show “Survivor”. Groups from 10 to 200 delegates can participate in these engaging challenges combined with ceremonies and a variety of custom locations to provide the group with a premier corporate team-building and employee development & training solution.
On a similar note, the Amazing Race is the newest in the company’s series of team-building events. Canadian Outback’s Amazing Race is an outstanding team-building event combining communication skills, planning, strategy, teamwork and a race against the clock. Anyone can participate as no special skills, athletic ability or experience is required.
For delegates who’d rather sip and sample instead of test their endurance, culinary tours and classes are a delicious way to team-build. Delegates can also attend chef demonstrations, participate in hands-on cooking classes, explore wineries and savor the abundance of food and wine the island has to offer with travelwithtaste.com.
Once the team has been solidified, Victoria is also a great place to get the job done.
“Victoria can meet all conference needs from superior hotels, meeting facilities and off-site facilities and help creative planners pull it all together with flair,” says Holliss. “Frequent direct-air access from Toronto, Calgary, Vancouver and other cities ensure delegates have plenty of choice getting here.”
The Victoria Conference Centre is one of the city’s best places to conduct a meeting or event.
Located downtown, the Victoria Conference Centre offers 73,000 square feet of functional meeting space with 16 meeting rooms, a large exhibit hall and a 400-seat lecture theatre and garden courtyard pavilions.
“This mix of multi-purpose function space is ideally suited for groups from 400 to 2,000,” says Ashley Rose, sales and research co-coordinator for the Victoria Conference Centre.
In the adjacent Crystal Garden building, delegates can enjoy banquet functions and exhibits in a unique heritage space. An open plaza and magnificent entry foyer create a bright, welcoming environment indoors and outdoors. State-of-the-art audio and visual equipment can also be supplied to ensure a successful meeting.
“The Victoria Conference Centre has 18 years of experience looking after delegates and their every need,” says Rose. “A full-service, professional conference venue with flexible and adaptable meeting space, the Victoria Conference Centre is confident that any conference delegate will feel like they are the most important person within our venue. Our goal is to ensure delegates enjoy a flawless experience from the perspective of services, technology and comfort.”
The Save-on-Foods Memorial Arena is also a great place to host a meeting. Located on the site of the venerable Victoria Memorial Arena, the state-of-the-art 7,000-seat facility is the home to the 32nd franchise in the ECHL, the Victoria Salmon Kings, world-class concerts and sporting events. In addition the Save-On-Foods Memorial Centre is available for special events and business and trade shows throughout the year, boasting 17,000 square feet of meeting space.
The Save-On-Foods Memorial Centre features more than 1,000 Club and King Club seats, a fine dining restaurant, a Club lounge, retail space, meeting space, superior sightlines and world-class acoustics.
For delegates looking for a unique venue, the Royal B.C. Museum is an ideal place to host an event. Its three permanent exhibit galleries are available for private events following regular visiting hours. In the Natural History Gallery delegates can dine with a Wooly Mammoth, a grizzly bear or a sea lion looking on. The Modern History Gallery has Captain Vancouver’s ship, a water wheel and an old town, all perfect settings for entertainment and learning about the early days of British Columbia. The breathtaking First People’s Gallery showcases the majestic totems and rare examples of First Nations Arts. Delegate groups of 10 to 2,000 can dine on traditional foods as they watch a First Nations’ performance.
Although drinking on the job is usually not recommended, the Canoe Brew Pub is another interesting venue in which to host an event. The Canoe Brew Pub, Marina and Restaurant is a “must experience” 1894 heritage landmark building on Victoria’s downtown waterfront. Its Brewmaster and his award-winning handcrafted beers are renowned in the Pacific Northwest. Meeting planners can rent the entire facility or chose to host their event in the Canoe Brew Pub’s large format restaurant, pub area or one of our outside patios. The pub can accommodate groups ranging from 10 to 500 people and its creative promotions team can help meeting delegates plan themed and special occasion events.
Worth the drive
For delegates who want to venture out of Victoria, just an hour away in Nanaimo lies some great meeting opportunities. Nanaimo is a safe, clean, desirable location, easily accessed by land, sea and air. It is located mid-island directly east from Vancouver across the Strait of Georgia. From the Vancouver International Airport, Nanaimo Airport is a mere 13-minute flight on Air Canada Jazz; a 14-minute flight from Vancouver Harbor to Nanaimo Harbor via seaplane or a one-and-a-half hour ferry journey. Nanaimo is home to Vancouver Island’s largest shopping centre — the Woodgrove Shopping Centre –boasting more than 200 stores.
The area if also chock-full of golf courses, wineries, spas and exquisite restaurants. For meeting planners looking to host an event, the Vancouver Island Conference Centre is ideal — or at least it will be once it opens. The Vancouver Island Conference Centre is Canada’s 18th dedicated full-service conference centre, scheduled to open in June 2008. Located in downtown Nanaimo — otherwise known as “The Harbour City” — the conference centre is just a two-minute stroll from one of Canada’s most beautiful and picturesque harbors.
“As Canada’s hottest new conference destination, convention delegates will experience one of the finest full-service dedicated conference facilities in the country,” says Jim Owens, director of sales & marketing for the Vancouver Island Conference Centre.
Offering 38,000 square feet of flexible meeting space and the newest technology available, the Vancouver Island Conference Centre can accommodate up to 1,300 delegates. The facility boasts a 13,697-square-foot ballroom that can be divided into four separate salons; a 200-seat tiered auditorium/theatre; nine breakout rooms; conference pre-function space and an adjacent 800-seat performing arts theatre.
And it won’t be just the facilities the delegates will enjoy. Premium in-house food and beverage services are provided for sit-down banquets in one contiguous space for up to 900 guests.
“Setting the Vancouver Island Conference Centre apart, cuisine is a key focus, an experience in itself,” says Owens. “With locally inspired menus and fresh West Coast ingredients, delegates will enjoy fine dining, quality and service excellence.”
Located in Parksville, approximately 30 minutes from the BC Ferry terminal at Departure Bay in Nanaimo, the Tigh-Na-Mara Seaside Spa Resort and Conference Centre is another great meeting destination. Nestled amid 22 acres of forest, along sandy beaches Tigh-Na-Mara is a truly unique and West Coast destination. All 192 units are handcrafted log construction, built with real fir and cedar logs. There are a variety of room styles to choose from including spa bungalows, ocean view suites and authentic log cabins with wood burning fireplaces. The guest rooms range from condo-style units with spectacular views overlooking the Strait of Georgia to log-constructed cabins nestled into the natural fir, cedar and arbutus forest.
“If planners are looking for a unique meeting venue, Tigh-Na-Mara fits the order,” says Paul Drummond, general manager for Tigh-Na-Mara. “Meetings held in cities come along with the hustle and bustle and numerous delegate distractions no matter in which city they are being held. If groups are looking for a quality experience that offers a natural environment to focus on the task at hand and team-building, our setting is perfect. The only distractions are the ones you want to happen.”
Tigh-Na-Mara has the largest meeting and convention facilities on Vancouver Island north of Victoria. It boasts 12 meeting rooms, all with natural light access totaling in excess of 12,000 square feet of flexible meeting space. The convention centre’s business Centre comes complete with computers, Internet access, fax machine and photocopier to ensure a successful meeting.
The staff at Tigh-Na-Mara also works with meeting planners to ensure a flawless get-together.
“The sales and catering team at the resort offer one-stop service — the person that they work with to negotiate the contract is also the person they work with to plan the details,” says Wendy Sears, director of sales and catering. “We find this provides planners with full confidence that their needs will be met.”
The staff also assists meeting planners by connecting them with local suppliers who can provide them with everything they need to put together themed events, complex audio-visual requirements and team-building programs.
“The service and quality provided by our staff is second to none and we offer great value,” says Sears. “The destination is also great for pre- or post-visits. It’s the kind of place that delegates usually stay on and spend some personal time with their family.”
Delegates taking advantage of pre- and post- stays have a choice to be active, relax and unwind or find a personal balance between both. The resort and surrounding area offer numerous activities year-round, including fishing, golfing and skiing.
The resort also serves up another big attraction — the Grotto Spa.
“It’s one of the most popular amenities our guests take the opportunity to experience while at the resort,” says Drummond.
The largest resort spa in British Columbia, The Grotto offers more than 20,000 square feet of bliss. It features a stunning 2,500-square foot Mineral Bath — fed by a two-storey waterfall, 17 treatment rooms and has recently expanded to the third floor, with a $1.5-million addition that has added about 8,000 square feet of usable space. The addition includes three extravagant Grotto Spa Suites for Two, the Relaxation Lounges, and the sumptuous delicacies of the Treetop Tapas & Grill.
Delegates can treat themselves to the spa’s signature treatments including The West Coast Seaweed Experience, the Canadian Body Balancing Treatment and the Grotto Anti-Aging Hand Treatment.
“With the Grotto Spa, we can arrange group visits or spa breaks right into the meeting area,” says Drummond. “I believe one of the things meeting planners don’t want is the unexpected, but, would like to work with a property who prides itself on providing the unexpected in a positive way to their delegates.”