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Canada: mind over matter

Home to the much of the world’s last-remaining wilderness, Canada is not short on natural charms. But, in a bid to attract international meetings, the country has been flaunting its know-how. James Lancaster reports…

It usually takes more than just physical attraction to build a long-lasting, mutually beneficial relationship. Ideally you want a partner who can offer a little intellectual stimulation, too.

Business Events Canada, the promotional agency tasked with attracting international meetings to the country, has been drawing on local expertise to woo association conference organisers.

Until recently, Canada sold itself as a meetings destination in mainly logistical terms, focusing on capacity, access, safety, affordability, hospitality, and the quality of its meetings infrastructure.

It’s staggering natural beauty was a given.

But in 2017 the country began promoting its ‘economic centres of excellence’ to international event organisers working in industries aligned to its strengths.

The idea was to create richer relationships with international organisations who might choose to meet in Canada specifically to help advance a particular industry or field of expertise.

As Virginie De Visscher, director of business development for economic sectors, Business Events Canada, explains it sometimes meant educating convention bureaux (CVB) about their home turf.

“What we discovered from our cities was that not every CVB had the knowledge about what their sector strengths were, so over the last year we have developed a strategy where we work closely with the economic development agencies, so in Montreal, for example, that would mean fostering a working relationship between Montreal International and Tourism Montreal. They have that sector knowledge, but they don’t have the meetings and events industry knowledge.”

Business Events Canada created a national map of expertise in each of the the country’s seven priority industries: aerospace technologies, agriculture and agri-food manufacturing, clean tech, advanced manufacturing, life sciences, technologies, and natural resources.

It produced sales and marketing materials for all seven sectors, showing the cities applicable to each, and supplementary information on specific companies active in those industries.

The national bureau is now engaging the world’s top business, academic, science, and technology leaders to encourage them to meet in Canada. It has fostered partnerships with various international organizations, such as the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, the world’s largest technical professional organization, and the Council of Engineering and Scientific Society Executives.

Virginie De Visscher

Says De Visscher: “We hope that if they are looking at Canada to expand they can host some of their events in Canada and that will lead to trade and investment. You never get trade and investment without a meeting. People have to go to the destination. It’s a marriage where you are investing lots of your money, so you want to go there and see what it’s like.

“Traditionally we measure meetings by how much F&B they consumed, how many rooms, the meetings space, the airlift, but in addition to that, we acknowledge the importance of measuring the long-term impact. With meetings you attract talent, trade opportunities, R&D, so the legacy of your meeting is far wider reaching than what we are currently measuring. Meetings are the catalyst, the thing that makes things happen. What Business Events Canada considers is the economic development impact for our specific purpose, which is another reason why we work with economic development agencies, because they can help to measure the longer-term economic impact.

“We are trying to change the perception of business events by having these discussions with other destinations around the world that are trying to do the same thing – Sydney, Singapore, Dubai. Cities that are elevating their economic strengths to attract these key meetings. Business events drive economies and innovation. By focusing on the whole eco-system, aligning key economic drivers, priority economic sectors, academia and conference infrastructure, Business Events Canada positions our destinations as economic and innovation accelerators, fostering global trade and investment.”

CASE STUDY

Building sustainable futures in Québec

The Québec City Convention Centre, in collaboration with the City of Québec, has just hosted the second World Congress on Mid-and High-rise Wood Buildings.

Woodrise 2019 brought together more than 800 professionals and decision-makers from 29 countries hoping to position wood as a construction material for sustainable cities.

Co-organized by not-for-profit FPInnovations (Canada) and the FCBA Technological Institute (France), the event was held in Québec City at the Centre des congrès de Québec, September 30 – October 4.

Speakers and experts in the field discussed topics such as seismic risk prevention and fire safety in wood buildings, the impact of wood on quality of life, and emerging markets.

Under the theme, “Building our cities for future generations”, the event was jointly organized by not-for-profit FPInnovations (Canada) and Institut technologique FCBA (France).

The first congress was held in 2017 in Bordeaux, France.

The next will be held in Kyoto, Japan, in 2021, under the auspices of the Japan International Association for the Industry of Building and Housing (JIBH), and it’s clear that momentum is building.

In a joint statement Stéphane Renou, president and CEO of FPInnovations, and Christophe Mathieu, executive director, FCBA Technological Institute, said: “Stakeholders have already expressed interest in participating in the next edition of Woodrise, which will help consolidate the groundwork already laid and maximize the contribution of wood as a key material in the fight against climate change”.

Amarjeet Sohi, Minister of Natural Resources, Canada, said: “As the world opens up to new renewable and clean energies, wood from sustainably managed forests will play an increasingly important role. That’s why we’re investing in areas such as high-rise wood buildings and the emerging bio-economy to ensure that Canada continues to lead the world in forestry.”

Pierre Dufour, Minister of Forests, Wildlife and Parks, added: “Sustainable management of Québec’s forests and the products they generate are our main priorities. Developing innovative wood products and projects spurs Québec’s economic growth and helps in the fight against climate change. That’s why we’re proud to join with FPInnovations and the other partners of Woodrise 2019 to promote responsible development that will be a source of pride for future generations.”

CASE STUDY

Tech savvy puts Toronto on Collision course

Photo: Stephen McCarthy/Collision via Sportsfile

Collision – or ‘Coachella for geeks’ –  took place in Toronto this year after North America’s fastest growing tech conference moved to North America’s fastest growing tech region.

The move from New Orleans, which sees Toronto hosting the conference for another two years, adds momentum to Ontario’s growing status as a hub for technology and innovation.

The event, which was held at the Enercare Centre at Exhibition Place, May 20-23, attracted more than 30,000 delates. It is expected to pump $147m into the economy over three editions.

The announcement of Collision’s move to Toronto garnered support from the highest offices in Canada. “Here in Canada, we know innovation and inclusion go together and the rest of the world has taken notice. Tech talent is coming to our country in record numbers and with our Innovation and Skills Plan, our government is making it easier for innovators to succeed and for investors to support them,” said The Right Honourable Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister of Canada.

Created by the team behind Web Summit, the world’s largest and most influential tech event, Collision attracts CEOs of the world’s largest tech companies, startups, investors and media.

“Right now feels like a special moment for Canada, and for Toronto,” said Paddy Cosgrave, CEO of Collision. “There is such energy in the city, such an open, cosmopolitan and global atmosphere. Great companies are being started and incredible talent is coming out of the region.”

The Toronto region ranks as the largest tech sector in Canada and the third largest in North America. The sector employs 401,000 people in 18,000 tech companies, accounting for 15 per cent of all jobs in the Toronto region. The growth of the regional tech sector outpaced that of New York City and San Francisco combined in 2016. Based on that growth rate, Toronto will have more technology jobs than Silicon Valley within two years.

CANADA’ S KEY ECONOMIC SECTORS:

  • AEROSPACE
  • ADVANCED MANUFACTURING
  • AGRI-BUSINESS
  • CLEANTECH
  • LIFE SCIENCES
  • NATURAL RESOURCES
  • TECHNOLOGY