Looking to the Future of Calgary Meetings

12th Mar, 2021

Calgary has large ambitions for the Canadian roadmap of events, as shown by the over $1 billion investment in meetings organisation. The goal is simple: to become the largest convention destination in Western Canada.

In the western part of the Canadian prairies, lies a bustling city that is reshaping as the conference destination for the 21st century. For the second year in a row, Calgary has been voted the most liveable city in North America and, all things considered, this does not come as a shocking surprise. Surrounded by a breathtaking natural setting, it is thriving with a safe and compact downtown, multiple solutions for your business and easy access worldwide. The city entered an initial lockdown in mid-March that has been lifted since late spring, when economic activities started to resume as safely as possible. And, on the 2nd of November, the Calgary International Airport began a COVID-19 rapid-testing pilot programme for international travelers arriving there - the first and only airport in Canada to have this initiative.

“Part of the reason why Calgary continues to be a celebrated city is because of the work that goes into ensuring it’s not only a great place to live, but also to visit,” states David Woodward (right photo), executive director of meetings and conventions for Tourism Calgary. “Right now, Calgary is investing over CAD$1 billion into infra- structure benefitting both the local and visitor economy.”

At the moment, a city-wide security programme is underway to make it easier for delegates to feel confident in choosing the city. Tourism Calgary is capitalising on this investment by launching a brand-new marketing campaign for meetings and conventions called ‘A Billion Reasons’, as well as preparing important tools for event planners to ensure success for their meetings and conventions. “Safety is of utmost importance to us and our partner venues and hotels,” says Woodward. “We are working closely with our customers with a focus on restarting face-to-face meetings in the second quarter of 2021.”

Both their major venues have been proactive during this pandemic and have been accredited with the Global Biorisk Advisory Council STAR. Furthermore, hotels have worked diligently to welcome back small meetings with local businesses that need physically distanced spaces. The $500M BMO Centre expansion has not been hindered by the impacts of COVID-19 and is moving smoothly towards the planned spring 2024 completion, while the Calgary TELUS CC has introduced a hybrid event studio for event planners. About this virtual transition, Woodard doesn’t falter: "It is very difficult to replace the energy of a live event in a host destination and we believe participants are eager to return to these types of events when it is safe to do so."

Calgary is also an eco-conscious city dedicated to environmental stewardship. According to Mercer Global Financial, it is the cleanest place in the world thanks to many factors such as the amount of green spaces, renewable energies for transportation and the urban pathway systems. “Calgary is well equipped to host a sustainable event that reduces waste and minimises the carbon footprint generated by conferences and trade shows.”

When asked about the future, Woodward did not deflect from the major points for 2021 goals: “To have our meeting delegates feel comfortable for face-to-face events, to see attendance at local events and tradeshows increase and to reinforce our safety protocols in our hotels, venues and local attractions.

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