Uniquely Canadian Ways to Make Conference Delegates Feel Welcome when they #MeetInCanada
Genuine hospitality is a Canadian calling card. Indeed, when it comes to global conferences, everyone’s welcome here. So just how do Canadian destinations roll out the red, white and maple leaf to make delegates from across the globe feel welcome in their cities? There are countless, creative ways.
“Our Destination Marketing Organizations (DMOs) are naturally collaborative and creative when it comes to helping make delegates of international conferences feel welcome in Canada,” says Chantal Sturk-Nadeau, executive director of Business Events Canada.
Some of the inventive initiatives we’ve seen include destination videos with a welcome by the Prime Minister of Canada, local mayors and, in the case of St. John’s, Newfoundland: local Canadian celebrities.
Providing delegates with a sense of place goes a long way toward making them feel welcome. In Canada’s heartland, Meetings + Conventions Calgary welcome international delegates with their traditional “White Hatter” ceremony as they arrive at the Calgary Airport. Local ambassadors greet guests, swear them in as honorary Calgarians, and present each with a white cowboy hat, a local symbol of Calgary hospitality.
Meanwhile, Tourism Saskatoon coordinates Indigenous welcome or blessing ceremonies for opening events, and in the case of conferences that include families, they are happy to help coordinate a family-fun night at a local Saskatoon attraction, or coordinate babysitting services for parents to make the most of their event.
High Tech, High Touch
Use of technology is on the rise when it comes to making delegates feel welcome. For example, Charlottetown has created what they call the Virtual Delegate Bag, a free smartphone app, where delegates can find everything they need to know about their conference and their stay in Charlottetown, including where to shop, eat, and what to do before, after, or in-between their business sessions.
With Open Hearts
Meeting delegates where they are is a key strategy of Edmonton Tourism’s Street Team who offer complimentary welcome experiences to arriving conference delegates.
“Our Conference Services team works with event organizers all the way through the planning process, but once the conference-goers arrive, it’s a group of passionate local experts who makes sure the delegates feel welcome,” says Anna Look, director of meetings and conventions for Edmonton Tourism. “We’ve taken a new approach with visitor information services. Now, rather than sending guests to a bricks and mortar information centre, we send our dynamic Edmonton Experience Street Team to meet delegates where they are – whether that’s at the city’s two convention centres, in a hotel, or at an off-site event venue, our goal is to welcome, entertain and inform first-time and returning visitors about what they can experience while they’re visiting Edmonton.”
Taking a page from the city’s acclaimed festivals, the Edmonton Experience Street Team has served up locally-inspired welcome drinks and arranged for Edmonton musicians to greet the 900 delegates of the North America Baptist Triennial Conference. When the Smart Airports and Regions Conference took over Fort Edmonton Park, the Edmonton Experience Street Team welcomed guests around a roaring fire pit where they roasted marshmallows and created S’mores while staffers made recommendations of what to experience in Edmonton before, after, and in between conference sessions.
“Every DMO is taking the time to listen to delegates, and Edmonton is too, whether that’s via social media chatter, or through contact with the Street Team,” says Look.
It was this type of listening that tipped Edmonton Tourism off to the fact that a delegation of ASAE’s Executive Leadership Forum were interested in learning more about the city’s ICE District and the new Rogers Centre. Tipped off to the interest, Edmonton Tourism arranged a behind-the-scenes tour of the venue for 30 members of the group.
“Collaboration is in Edmonton’s DNA, but having our team on the ground with the conference makes it incredibly easy for us to pivot on short notice to wow our guests,” says Look.
Perhaps one of the most memorable delegate engagement initiatives is Tourism Vancouver’s Social Concierge program which, for select conferences active on social media, provides a dedicated team on site monitoring a conference’s social media conversation, looking for opportunities to surprise and delight attendees with customized gifts and local member attraction tickets. Recipients have received tickets to Grouse Mountain for someone who hoped to see Grizzly Bears; locally made earrings for an attendee who lost one of hers on the first day of the conference; portable power pack for an attendee with a dead iPhone; a Get Well Soon basket for an attendee who caught a cold on the plane ride here; and a swag bag of goodies for an attendee whose luggage was lost en route to Vancouver.
As we like to say; Canada has open arms, open hearts; everyone’s welcome here!