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Meeting in Saskatoon and Winnipeg

Meetings and Conventions are a Big Deal for Small Cities

Want your event to be the biggest buzz around town? Consider holding it in one of Canada’s smaller urban centres where meeting planners are excited to discover expansive convention centres, unique and inspired off-site venues, and the whole city turning out to welcome their delegations.

Saskatoon Skyline

Saskatoon, Saskatchewan

Due north of Montana, you’ll find Saskatoon, the largest city in the Canadian prairies. A centre of excellence for sciences and agribusiness Saskatoon is a smart location for meetings in these innovation sectors. Fuelled by creative spirit, the city is in the midst of an urban rebirth, 6,000 years in the making. The beating heart of Saskatchewan culture and scientific innovation, meeting planners can count on a warm reception when the red carpet is rolled out on these northern prairies.

Saskatoon is quietly making a name for itself as a destination of choice for international business events focused on agriculture, soil sciences, plant proteins, contagious diseases, food security, nuclear medicine and more. And it’s no wonder. With the research being done at the University of Saskatchewan’s College of Agriculture and Bioresources, and at the Global Institute for Food Security, not to mention VIDO-Intervac and others, scientists from around the world are taking notice, leveraging Saskatoon’s intellectual capital to host educational and engaging events in Saskatoon. 

Ranked #4 places to visit by USA Today,  meeting planners will find more than 800,000 sq. ft. of state-of-the-art meeting space throughout Saskatoon. In the mix: the 104,000 sq. ft. Convention Centre at TCU Place, and the 240,000 sq. ft. Prairieland Park Trade & Convention Centre which has just completed a $16m renovation. The addition of the stunning new Remai Modern, a modern museum showcasing contemporary Indigenous and Canadian artists, provides conference organizers with an exceptional riverside venue for networking and social events within walking distance of hotel and convention facilities.

Whitney Stobee, International Convention Sales Executive with Tourism Saskatoon notes, “international meetings are a big deal around here.” Smaller urban centres like Saskatoon offer plenty of tangibles to help planners with their conferences, including site inspections, liaising with and introductions to meetings suppliers, airport welcome signage, and complimentary collateral to help market the conference to delegates. Key to making events here successful: connecting with local researchers, thought-leaders and industry to arrange tech or lab tours, to host networking events, or to take part in critical elements of the agenda such as keynote presentations. 

Beyond these staples, though, it’s the intangibles that often mean the most to international groups convening here: the warm welcome guests receive on arrival, the shop and restaurant owners who know greet their conference by name, the registration desk staffed by enthusiastic volunteers who help direct delegates to local attractions. According to Stoebe, there’s really no price tag for that kind of warm, prairie hospitality.

Winnipeg Skyline

Winnipeg, Manitoba

The ‘Peg as Canadians call Winnipeg, is a stone’s throw north of the Minnesota border — and smack dab in the middle of Canada. Flanked by two rivers, it’s been a natural meeting place for centuries, and these days, it’s the perfect middle ground for bicoastal organizations to meet.

Numerous prairie headquarters and agribusinesses make Winnipeg a global powerhouse and a compelling destination for agricultural meetings and conventions. The capital city of Manitoba is the world leader in commodities trading, health and functional food research and innovation, value-add food processing, advanced crop research and precision agriculture. 

It is an exciting time to meet in Winnipeg with 10 major, world-recognized food development and research innovation centres, such as the Richardson Centre for Functional Foods and the soon-to-open world-class Richardson Innovation Centre. In 2018, Winnipeg hosted the International Society of Nutrigenetics and Nutrigenomics Congress and is the future host to the 2020 Canadian Seed Growers Association and 2022 Canola Council of Canada annual meetings. 

Having 1800 agribusiness establishments at your fingertips and seven post-secondary educational institutions supporting this sector generates opportunities for strong programming and knowledge-sharing opportunities for delegates,” says Dayna Spiring, President and CEO of Economic Development Winnipeg.  

In fact, cutting-edge research by an impressive network of leading talent and food development entities has strengthened Winnipeg’s position as a leader in the industry. Digital agriculture through machine learning and artificial intelligence developed in Winnipeg also contributes to the city’s reputation as one of the most advanced agricultural economies in the world.

The recent $180m expansion of the RBC Winnipeg Convention Centre not only added 53,000 additional square feet of exhibit space in a new south wing, but now makes Winnipeg a viable option for groups needing up to 131,000 sq. ft. of space for a citywide convention. Also new to Winnipeg’s meetings landscape: the architecturally stunning Canadian Museum for Human Rights — the only national museum built beyond Canada’s National Capital Region. A landmark destination for visitors to Winnipeg it provides an evocative and moving location for off-site events for groups between 30 and 1,200 people. In the coming years, a 27-story, 288-room Sutton Place Hotel will anchor Winnipeg’s True North Square, which is slated for completion by 2021 — now’s definitely the time to book your conference here!

Winnipeg, although famously chill, is anything but when it comes to welcoming conventions to the city. And when conferences of over 500 delegates consider Winnipeg, the welcome gets even warmer with a whole host of value-added extras to help promote conferences:

  • Complimentary information booth at the conference location, staffed by friendly, knowledgeable volunteers during designated hours
  • Badges for front line hotel and attraction staff welcoming the city-wide convention
  • A customized list of top things to see and do in Winnipeg during your conference dates outside of scheduled convention sessions
  • Team Winnipeg – a centralized planning team made up of hotels, attractions, meeting planners, AV companies, DMCs working together to coordinate convention logistics
  • Custom signage throughout downtown to welcome delegates
  • Digital welcome signage at the airport
  • Social media engagement with conference
  • Complimentary Winnipeg publications, maps, video and displays

Competitive rates, strong air lift, and a host of new venues and experiences — there’s a reason Canada’s smaller urban centres are booming — and smart meeting planners are making this trend work to their advantage.