Columnist image
Pattie Lovett-Reid

Chief Financial Commentator, CTV


As the U.S. dollar strengthens against the loonie, a big business opportunity presents itself: tourism.

Travel and tourism is one of the few truly national industries that generates business in every region across the country. While often associated with seasonal jobs, attractions, and tours, it is a vitally important industry coast to coast.

According to the World Trade & Tourism Council, tourism in Canada contributed $41.8 billion to the country’s GDP in 2017, with that number expected to rise to $56.1 billion by 2028. The industry supports 1.6 million direct and indirect jobs in Canada, making up 8.6 per cent of the total employment numbers in the country.

An often-overlooked aspect of the industry is the important role that business events (meetings, conventions, conferences, and congresses) have on the Canadian economy. These events provide a significant economic and long-term legacy on the host city or community. According to Loren Christie, director of sales, Canada & International Congress, at Tourism Toronto, last year Toronto hosted 951 meetings and events that brought 400,000 delegates that generated spending of $634 million into the local economy.

Ambassador programs are becoming more common across the country, where convention bureaus and local communities partner with top thinkers, innovators, and researchers to bring international meetings to cities to build on their global reputation, promote innovation, and leave a legacy of social and economic benefits. In an aim to attract these important meetings, destinations across the country are shifting their emphasis to intellectual assets to make it a more attractive destination to a meeting planner in a particular sector.

Here are some examples summarized by Christie.

Toronto – Leaders Circle

"Since 2015, Toronto’s Leaders Circle has fostered and supported local ambassadors in the process of bringing international events to the city. It’s important to note that without a local ambassador, 70 per cent of international conventions would not consider an overseas destination. Leaders Circle ambassadors play an instrumental role in attracting meetings which greatly elevate the vitality of business events in Toronto and provide significant intellectual and community benefits to the city and province."

Calgary – Calgary Champion Program

"In 2013, the Calgary Champion program was launched with an aim to engage leaders in priority sectors to attract international conferences to the city. These connections deliver heightened intellectual capital in the community, local and national programming and global networking business opportunities. As well, this helps international organizations reach a targeted local network of potential speakers, exhibitors, sponsors and research groups."

Vancouver - Be A Host Program

"Vancouver’s Be a Host Program, is an alliance of local industry leaders dedicated to advancing research, knowledge and innovation in their respective fields. In partnership with the Vancouver Convention Centre and the hotel community, the program launched in 1996 and is a forerunner of similar programs now taking off in meeting destinations worldwide. Ambassadors play an invaluable role in showcasing Canadian research excellence on a global stage, contributing to Vancouver’s advancing knowledge economy, and boosting the city’s intellectual assets."

Winnipeg – Bring It Home Program

"Economic Development Winnipeg’s Bring It Home Program encourages local businesses and community leaders to advocate for the city as a destination for national and international meetings and conventions. Since its inception in 2012, Bring It Home has helped facilitate 128 meetings, bringing more than 10,500 delegates to Winnipeg."