In Canada, a handful of destinations dominate the meetings market, but with rising costs and limited hotel availability causing compression in larger markets, planners of conferences and incentive events are turning to destinations such as Kelowna, where budgets stretch further, to host their meetings and conferences.
“Our destination was poised for this shift,” says Amy Nunn, executive director of sales & marketing of Prestige Beach House Hotel, a lake and park-side property in Kelowna’s downtown. “Not only does Kelowna offer a variety of conference hotels at varying price points, but when it comes to hosting meetings and groups Kelowna offers a lot in terms of the delegate experience.”
Attracting Delegates with Beyond the Conference Room Experiences
According to PCMA (Professional Conference Managers Association), the meetings industry is in transition, with participants and planners seeking authentic and unique experiences; something Kelowna, a hybrid resort/city in the heart of British Columbia’s wine country, offers in spades, and for significantly less than hosting in Vancouver, Whistler, or the Canadian Rockies.
Photo by: Shawn Talbot Photography
“We’re seeing meeting RFPs that look more like leisure travel requests,” says Lana Uytterhagen, director of sales and marketing with Delta Hotels by Marriott Grand Okanagan Resort, which with 324 guest rooms and 35,083 sq. ft. of meeting space, is Kelowna’s largest convention hotel. “Today’s planners are not only leveraging Kelowna’s intellectual capital to create compelling content for their attendees, but they’re also seeking local cuisine, regional craft brews, and access to local arts and culture.” The Delta’s prime downtown lakeside location places conference-goers in the heart of Kelowna’s Cultural District where nightlife, an unrivalled farm-to-table dining scene, craft distillers, beer-makers, and wineries are all within steps of conference rooms.
According to a recent CBRE destination report, the cost of hotel accommodations are roughly one third lower in Kelowna compared to Vancouver, and almost half compared to resort locations in Banff, Lake Louise, and Jasper. “Airfare and accommodations take up a significant part of an event’s budget,” says Jennifer Horsnell, director of business and destination development for Tourism Kelowna. “Planners can incorporate a lot more of those sought-after après conference experiences into their agendas simply by hosting their event in Kelowna.”
Photo by: Shawn Talbot Photography
Affordable, Turn-key Meetings
Beyond the downtown corridor, secluded in Kelowna’s Lower Mission district, the Eldorado Resort, with 155 guest rooms and 9,321 sq. ft. of meeting space, offers planners two distinct and unique properties under one billing system: the boutique Hotel Eldorado (53 guest rooms) and the lakeview Manteo Resort, featuring 78 suites and 24 private two- and three-bedroom villas. A private beach, two restaurants, lounges, a new whisky tasting room, and a full-service marina offer guests lakefront access to two of Kelowna’s signature experiences: lake recreation and enviable culinary experiences.
“Both of our properties have gained a reputation for hospitality excellence,” says Dana Crichton, director of sales and marketing hospitality with Argus Properties, owners of the resort. “By amalgamating the two properties, we now offer planners a wider range of amenities and venues to choose from, mitigating the need to take groups off-property, which can result in cost-savings.”
For Meetings with Budgets of all Shapes and Sizes
In a recent Eventbrite poll of 1,200 event planners, almost half expect to plan their 2019 events with no increase in their 2018 budgets. So how do planners maximize their limited resources? By moving inland from lakefront hotels and resorts, and embracing Kelowna’s urban properties such as the Royal Anne Hotel, a 64-room property in Kelowna’s downtown shopping district and a great location for smaller meetings and events.
Nearby in Kelowna’s Landmark District, the city’s centralized business campus, is the 185-guest room Coast Capri Hotel, an affordable, flexible conference hotel featuring 15,000 sq.ft. of function space within a short stroll of shopping, restaurants, green spaces, and Okanagan Lake. Fully outfitted with fitness centre, spa, gourmet coffee bar, and a restaurant featuring live weekend entertainment, the Coast provides creative event experiences and a budget-friendly alternative to Kelowna’s lakeside resorts.
Curious about how much you can save on your next conference or event by meeting in Kelowna? Connect with us; we’ll add it all up for you.
Kim Cameron is a content editor specializing in tourism and hospitality storytelling. A former international meeting and incentive travel planner and hotelier, Kim drives all editorial coverage for Business Events Canada, a division of Destination Canada, the country’s national tourism marketing organization. In addition to writing winning awards entries, event proposals and website content for private event planning agencies, Kim is working on her first novel.