US trail: Meeting beneath the falls

Features

Niagara Falls is most well known as being one of the natural wonders of the world, yet since the 1990s Niagara, the area surrounding the falls on the Canadian side, has seen an economic boom and numerous hotels, tourist attractions and casinos have been built there. Today Niagara is a thriving tourism destination, often dubbed the Las Vegas of Canada.

Niagara is situated one hour from the city of Toronto and just 20 minutes from Buffalo International Airport. The town has 16,000 hotel bedrooms and numerous convention and exhibition facilities.

The convention venue product includes the Americana Conference Resort and Spa which has 204 bedrooms and 12 meeting rooms with up to 1,765sqm of space, Fallsview Casino Resort with 374 bedrooms and nine meeting rooms with 3,251sqm of space and the newly-opened Scotiabank Convention Centre.

The Scotiabank Convention Centre has 26,000sqm of meeting and event space and has been designed to Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) standard to minimise its carbon footprint. In a bid to attract events since its opening, the venue is offering up to CAN$10,000 (US$9.7,000) in meeting room rebates for qualifying conventions. “We know there are associations and  companies whose annual meetings have outgrown most hotels and are looking to break away from the same old, same old,” says Jeremy Tyrrell, Director of Sales at the Scotiabank Convention Centre.

“We’ve met them, we’ve hosted them, and we’ve heard that they don’t need much convincing to return. In fact, they’re happy to return to the Scotiabank Convention Centre and Niagara Falls. This convention development fund is targeted at those who need an extra reason to try us out for the first time.”

Niagara has made some big convention wins recently. It is to host the Canadian Federation for the Humanities and Social Sciences’ Congress 2014, which is expected to attract 7,000 delegates to Brock University in the region. Besides showcasing Brock and its research capacity, the event has the potential to generate economic spin-offs of upwards CAN$10m to the local area and use 17,000 room nights in local hotels and university residences.

When the region won the conference, Noreen Golfman, President of the Canadian Federation for the Humanities and Social Sciences, said: “Winning a bid to host Congress 2014 is like winning a bid to host the intellectual Olympics. Congress will help put both Brock and the surrounding region on the map as an international destination for knowledge and research.”

Other notable event wins for Niagara include the Canadian Society of Association Executives’ (CSAE) Annual Conference 2014 for 700 delegates, the Canadian Greenhouse Conference in 2013 and 2014 for 2,300 delegates and the Federation of Canadian Municipalities Conference 2014 for 2,000 delegates.

In 2012, the movers and shakers of the Canadian and US gaming industry descended on Niagara Falls for the 16th Annual Canadian Gaming Summit. Hosted by MediaEdge Communications and the Canadian Gaming Association, the yearly gala united over 1,000 gaming delegates from across North America.

“Fallsview Casino Resort was extremely supportive of bringing the Summit to Niagara Falls,” says Chris Torry, Operation Manager with MediaEdge. “Every year we base our city selection on input from our partners at the Canadian Gaming Association; interest from the provincial lottery corporation; proximity to gaming facilities and their interest, support and participation in the event; and a city’s venue offerings and ability to host this multi-faceted event. Niagara Falls met all of these conditions and more.”

The summit began with the Canadian Gaming Summit Golf Classic at the Whirlpool Golf Course. Gamers played 18 holes on one of golf course architect Stanley Thompson’s most celebrated creations against the backdrop of the Niagara River Whirlpool and Gorge.

The Summit’s official welcoming ceremony took place the evening after at the Elements on the Falls, situated at the upper level of the scenic Table Rock Welcome Centre. Nearly 400 attended the welcome event, which included cocktails, appetizers, and an unparalleled view of the falls. The night concluded with an after-party at Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville, where delegates slipped into island mode for a night of live music, tasty eats, and relaxed conversation with colleagues new and old.

“Our guests really enjoyed all the social elements of the Summit,” says Bill Rutsey, President of the Canadian Gaming Association. “The off-site venues, Elements on the Falls, and Margaritaville were great party venues that allowed people to mix, mingle, socialise, and have fun.”

Two days of keynote addresses and industry sessions followed at the Scotiabank Conference Centre. There was also an exhibition as part of the summit, which used all the venue’s exhibition space.

“The Scotiabank Convention Centre was the perfect size and configuration for the Summit, offering sufficient floor space for the exhibition, large ballrooms for plenary sessions and meals, and enough breakout and meeting rooms for the extensive education programme,” says Torry.

The Summit concluded with its Annual Awards Reception and Charity Gala at the Fallsview Casino Resort. Here, guests mingled for afternoon cocktails before finding their seat inside the casino’s Grand Hall.

Reflecting on both of the Summit’s main venues, Rutsey says: “The Scotiabank Convention Centre was ideal for all conference elements, from the keynotes, plenary sessions, presentations, panels, trade show floor, and on-site dining. Fallsview Casino Resort Ballroom and the 21 Club were both the right size to host awards gala dinner and after party. The food and beverage service was outstanding at both events.”

Reflecting on Niagara Falls as an events destination Nervick adds: “We had not run an event in Niagara Falls before 2012 and were pleasantly surprised at what the region had to offer. There are plenty of event options at varying price points and areas of attractiveness that only certain cities such as Niagara Falls can offer. I would consider Niagara Falls a true meeting destination offering multiple options for any type of event.”

Why not try the Las Vegas of Canada for your next meeting or event? 

This was first published in Issue 71/2013 of CMW. Any comments? Email cmw@mashmedia.net

Conference & Meetings World is published for the international conference and meetings industry. It tackles the issues facing organisers of international events. The editorial is independent, fresh and news driven, with a global reach.

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