Best of the west: Meetings and events in British Columbia

From outdoor adventure to metropolitan magic, British Columbia relishes its role as one of the world’s premier meetings destinations.


Meetings and conventions in Vancouver, British Columbia

Photo courtesy of Tourism BC-Albert Normandin

With the economy still in recovery mode, meeting planners worldwide are more conscious than ever of choosing conference destinations that offer the best value in terms of dollars and partnership. For many, that means opting for cities that are easily accessible, offer meeting spaces that can accommodate a range of attendee numbers and tastes, and provide year-round activity options for pre- and post-conference gatherings. That’s a lot to ask of one city – but time and again, Vancouver has achieved top ranking in almost every category.

Vancouver has evolved from small logging town to a world-class travel destination, thanks in part to a location that’s equally distant between Europe and Asia. Vancouver is also known as a green city, featuring one of the smallest carbon footprints of any major city in North America and known for pioneering innovative sustainability programs like Green Peace and OceanWise.

Of course, meeting venues are the name of the game and though the city offers plenty of unique spaces, there are several that scream “Vancouver”: the cliff-facing Capilano Suspension Bridge Park reception deck; the majestic Timber Room atop Grouse Mountain; and the Vancouver Art Gallery, housed in a turn-of-the-century courthouse.

But the Grand Dame of all meeting sites is the award-winning Vancouver Convention Centre (VCC), the city’s flagship convention facility and the first in the world to be LEED Platinum-certified. Centrally located on downtown Vancouver’s scenic waterfront, the VCC offers 466,500 square feet of meeting, exhibit and function space along with gourmet cuisine.

Accommodations abound

Hotel properties that are particularly popular among convention groups include the Fairmont Pacific Rim (recently named one of the world’s best hotels by Conde Nast Traveller) and the luxuriously appointed Metropolitan Hotel Vancouver. Of course, with 13,000 hotel rooms in the city’s downtown core and a number of properties catering to business travellers, delegates have plenty of choice.

Eating in Vancouver is a food-lover’s delight, with newer restaurant options that include Hawksworth (named the best new restaurant in Canada by Macleans magazine) as well as timeless favourites such as Raincity Grill, C Restaurant  and CinCin Ristorante.

Group activities in Vancouver cater to all interests, ranging from delegate-focused spa treatments to kayaking excursions and cycling tours.

But the best part of meeting in Vancouver? It’s a proven attendance-booster: according to a Tourism Vancouver poll, groups that meet in the city see up to 10 per cent increased attendance than the previous year. And that means registration revenues go up, tradeshow exhibitors enjoy more traffic and delegates benefit from increased networking opportunities. With all that to offer and more, what’s not to love about Vancouver?

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Meetings and conventions in Kamloops, BCKnown as the best place to let loose and just play, Kamloops certainly has seen increased awareness in recent years, emerging as a strong contender for those looking for a getaway from their everyday.

Centrally located between Vancouver and the Canadian Rockies, some might have thought it would be difficult for a city of 85,000-plus people to compete with sprawling urban centres for the corporate meetings market business, but quite the opposite is true. Meeting and event planners have been taking a serious look at Kamloops which has emerged as a great meetings option partially because of its not-so-big-city feeling, but primarily for its warm, welcoming people, diverse outdoor activities and just the right amenities required for hosting a winning meeting.

As a city that’s vibrant, active and always on the move – there have been many changes over the past several months that have significantly changed Kamloops’ dynamics.  A number of major downtown hotels are currently going through significant upgrades to their facilities. The newest overall build in the downtown core is the Sandman Signature Hotel, a six-storey hotel which will have 202 guest rooms, meeting rooms, swimming pool, 223 parking spots and two restaurants, all opening this year.

There’s also the refreshingly contemporary look and feel of the newly renovated Coast Kamloops Hotel & Convention Centre, one of the city’s largest and most popular venues for conventions and weddings, which has 202 guest rooms on-site and over 23,000 square feet of meeting space for up to 800 attendees. The South Thompson Inn & Conference Centre capitalizes on its tranquil, Kentucky-style ambience on 55 acres with expansive views of the South Thompson River.

Not only does Kamloops have the meeting venues to facilitate meeting sessions themselves, but also the venues for post-meeting activities. Delegates continuously rave about the Sunmore Ginseng Spa and their tea ceremonies, ginseng factory tours and the myriad of available spa treatments for the ultimate in relaxation. Progressive dining experiences are popular, as are the self-guided walking Brew Tours around downtown Kamloops.

“Our goal is to make planning your next meeting in Kamloops easy,” says Lisa Strachan, Destination Marketing Manager, Meetings & Events, Tourism Kamloops. “Our team can easily provide customized information required for making your decision on hosting your next meeting or event in Kamloops.”

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Meetings and conventions in Richmond, BC

Photo courtesy of Tourism Richmond

Richmond is the first and last place you see when you fly to British Columbia’s West Coast. Situated where the Pacific Ocean meets the Fraser River, it is a city full of surprises. With its waterfront boardwalks and seaside trails, mountain views, vibrant Asian culture, national historic sites and whale-watching and winery tours, Richmond is a unique thriving multicultural city where the Far East meets the Canadian West Coast.

Home to the award-winning Vancouver International Airport (YVR) and located 25 minutes south of Vancouver, this city of 200,000 and its collection of hotels are well connected via the Canada Line rapid transit system. But there’s so much more to this highly accessible city.

“We recognize that budgets are tight so we make it a priority to regularly offer incentives for both meeting planners and delegates,” says Deidre DeVico, Tourism Richmond’s National Sales Manager. “Currently meeting planners receive up to $2,013 in credit when they book and attendees will receive a free Metro Vancouver Attractions Pass when they book two nights pre/post meeting.”

Brooke Phemister, manager of the National Conferences for the Canadian Society of Club Managers, agrees. “We selected Richmond to host our conference based on the terrific services Tourism Richmond provided to us,” says Phemister.

The city offers no less than 24 brand name hotels each with a suite of convention and conference hosting facilities, free airport shuttles and creative menu options.

Known as a growing culinary destination – home to more than 800 restaurants – it’s Richmond’s rich Asian culture that will amaze you. Within a four-block radius there are three Hong Kong style shopping malls and a dizzying array of dining options showcasing the cuisines of China, Vietnam, Japan, Korea and Malaysia.

There is also plenty on offer for the active minded, with 80 km of walking and cycling trails. Britannia Heritage Shipyard and the Gulf of Georgia Cannery are two National History Sites found within the lively Historic Fishing Village of Steveston, a picturesque place for a stroll along the boardwalk and boutique shops.

When the sun sets, shoppers and diners head to the two world-famous Asian summer night markets. Others opt for the River Rock Casino Resort, which houses B.C.’s largest casino and the River Rock Show Theatre, a year-round stop for world-renowned touring musicians.

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