Travel Alberta

Personal Touch pays Off in Meetings Sector

Perseverance and Partnership are Key MICE Tools

On January 19, 2016, 1,200 retail delegates and 1,800 exhibiting personnel will arrive in Calgary to attend the Western Retail Lumber Association’s annual conference and two-day Buying Show, one of the largest of its kind in Canada.

This is the second of a six-year commitment to hold this premiere building materials event in Calgary, after 18 consecutive years in Saskatoon.

How did Alberta land this key piece of business? It’s a story of strategic planning, perseverance and expert relationship-building that dates as far back as 2005.

“This type of work is not about a single interaction,” says Jennifer Holly, eastern Canada business development director with Travel Alberta’s Meetings, Incentives, Conventions & Events (MICE) team. “It takes numerous interactions, often by many partners over a number of years, to book a piece of business like this.”

The Value of MICE

Travel Alberta’s MICE team of five in-market representatives – located in Ottawa, the United States and United Kingdom – identifies opportunities and executes plans to attract qualified meetings, incentive travel programs and conventions to Alberta.

It’s a hugely important part of Alberta’s tourism industry, accounting for close to 30 per cent of total tourism expenditures and 30 per cent of Alberta’s tourism jobs.

In 2015, for example, the Western Retail Lumber Association (WRLA) conference accounted for about 3,800 hotel room nights and a tourism economic impact of almost $1.5 million in three days. And that doesn’t include the business deals that happen on the tradeshow floor that could be well into the tens of millions.

Identifying Opportunities

It all began in 2005 when the WRLA, which has members in northwestern Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta, recognized it was outgrowing its long-time location for what was then called the Prairie Showcase.

“Flights to Saskatoon were not convenient, so it made it hard to get in and out for the show,” says Caren Kelly, the WRLA’s manager of marketing and trade shows. “We also kept growing each year and needed a venue and hotels that could handle our size and needs.”

In addition to the two-day trade show, the event has three highly attended evening events so ballroom space and a variety of nearby hotels are required.

A connection with a Travel Alberta MICE team member about these evolving needs kick-started a multi-year conversation about the added value and benefits of relocating the event to Alberta.

Eventually an RFP was issued and Edmonton, Calgary, Saskatoon and Regina bid for the convention and trade show.

The MICE team worked with Calgary and Edmonton’s destination marketing organizations (DMOs) to prepare bids. Calgary was chosen for its overall value, easy access to flights and large number of hotel rooms close to the Calgary Stampede’s BMO Centre.

“It was just the right time and place,” says Kelly. “Costs are always a major consideration since we encourage our delegates to stay three nights and refund them for the third night hotel stay.”

Finding the Right Fit

Travel Alberta’s MICE team prospects for new business by working with key networking associations and attending industry-related trade shows and events. They also proactively reach out to industry groups with synergies to Alberta’s economy such as building products, engineering and construction.

“WRLA was a natural fit for Alberta,” says Holly. “It hits several of our economic-related industries.” And as Kelly adds, a good majority of the association’s members are from Alberta.

The moral of this story? There are huge wins for Alberta in the MICE sector and by working together to build relationships, partners can grow their business, and contribute to and diversify the province’s economy.

“This was a fine example of collaboration with the DMOs and our hotel and venue partners,” says Holly. “And getting such a long-term commitment is a huge win.”

To learn more about what Travel Alberta is doing in the MICE sector, go to or contact Brian Slot at

Travel Alberta