HQ Report: Vancouver, only a lateral move away

15th Feb, 2016

On the occasion of the 2016 edition of PCMA Convening Leaders held in Canada, I discovered Vancouver, which is quite European with its high standard of living if you ask me. But another European PCMA attendee found the city typically American with its streets and building set in squares, so who to believe? I guess the truth is in the eye of the beholder!

Report by Cécile Koch

Picture by Sarah BorckThe weather gods were with me, beginning of January, when I arrived to Vancouver as they surprised me with a perfect blue sky and nice sunshine. Especially the Vancouver Convention Centre benefitted from this, being located at the harbor, with splendid views both of the ocean on one side and the snow-covered mountains on the other.

When I caught up with Claire Smith, Vice President of Sales and Marketing, Vancouver Convention Centre, she was inspecting the venue for the PCMA Convening Leaders - Edition 2016 that was to take place the following day. It was a perfect opportunity for me to follow her closely and discover how this centre has evolved since its opening in 2011.

TED in Vancouver

The staff was rehearsing how to dismantle, in the shortest possible time, the big plenary hall into separate areas after the official welcome speech. The basement, normally an exhibition hall, was also being dressed up for the opening cocktail of the evening. I could notice that Claire was satisfied and she got time to talk to me about the new and inspiring new space within the centre: the Workspring Active Learning and Work Space. 

As a matter of fact, this next-generation convention design originated from the TED’s TALKS, the famous conference that tackles big global issues in Vancouver each year. Claire Smith says: “The people who attend TED are influencers, and they’re in high demand. Many of them were leaving the meeting to return to their hotels to finish work, so Steelcase and TED joined together to make it comfortable, safe and inviting to work in the meeting environment.”  The comfy home office area consists of café-style booths which create a semi-private feel for intimate conversations. Fully-wired work stations also offer easy places for attendees to plug in and manage workloads while they’re away from their offices.

Vancouver, both European and American

I stayed most of my time in downtown Vancouver, also called little Manhattan, where you can visit all the several different districts of the town easily by foot. Vancouverites seem to enjoy a nice life: lots of coffee- and pastry bars for day time and cocktail bars for evening all over town. Funky start-up companies have quickly found their place close to them.

A city with a heart

My favourite was a place called Gastown, at walkable distance from the waterfront, where the Vancouver Convention Centre is situated.  It is the ‘old’ part of town with lots of brick-layered houses, sprinkled with the above mentioned bars. 

In this neibourghood you also find SmartyPanz, an interactive room that raises the bar for creative and challenging team-buildings: you have to find the solution of puzzles and riddles in order to get out of a room – it’s a nice brain exercise after a hard day at the congress. (www.smartypanz.ca)

I also enjoyed the “social entreprise” tour I made with local guide Jenn who made me discover this Vancouver’s colourful quarter.  I enjoyed a huge hamburger in a place where homeless people can get their sandwich, not by handing over money but a token which they receive from the better-to-do Vancourites. I also ate delicious chocolate made by people who are not able to work a full day. 

Another guide with a great heart was Judy who made me discover the Chinatown quarters. What made it so extraordinary was that Judy had access to the interiors of several buildings owned by Chinese families. I discovered an intimate place high up in the attic of one of the old houses,  with Chinese people playing may yong. But Chinatown is also the place of good restaurants like the BAO BEI who has great staff and great atmosphere.

From great luxury to experimental staying

Fairmont has three hotels downtown. The two modern ones are at the waterfront, each with their own highlights: the Fairmont Waterfront has great views, while the other one, the Fairmont Pacific Rim has great rooms. If you opt for a more classic hotel, you could choose the Fairmont Hotel Vancouver, nested in a beautiful 1920th century setting.

Fancy a different style? Then there is Skwachays Lodge, a new boutique hotel decorated by six of Vancouver’s top hotel decorators who teamed up with six Aboriginals artists. Each room is different and the atmosphere is laid back.

There are also new hotels to come: Trump International Hotel in fall 2016 and Parq, a new LEED certified urban resort with two properties in January 2017.

Finally, as mentioned before, the Vancourites love the good life. In this regards, restaurant Hawskworth deserves a special mention here, with top classy modern food and great staff! If fully booked, try Laboratoir in Gastown.


Main picture by Kristopher Grunert

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