Propelled by stronger demand for convention and event space and the buzz preceding the 2010 winter Olympic Games in British Columbia, facilities across Canada are going through growth spurts. Among the biggest projects either recently unveiled or in the works is the Toronto Congress Centre, which recently doubled its exhibition space, bringing the total to more than 1 million square feet. The expansion includes 40 new meeting rooms and a 25,000-square-foot ballroom, and will incorporate sustainable design elements involving indoor air quality, energy efficiency, and water conservation.

Also in Toronto, Architect Frank Gehry is leading a $207 million transformation of the Art Gallery of Ontario (www.ago.net) that will expand the exhibition space by 47 percent and include new meeting spaces. Work is scheduled for completion in spring 2008.

In western Canada, an expansion under way at the Vancouver Convention & Exhibition Centre will add 341,000 square feet of functional waterfront meeting space, bringing the total to more than 473,000 square feet. It is scheduled for completion in spring 2009, in time for the Olympics.

A renovation at Vancouver International Airport will add nine gates to the international terminal; expand customs, check-in, passenger screening, and baggage-handling facilities; and equip the airport to handle new, larger passenger aircraft such as the Airbus A380. The work will take a decade. The airport recently opened four of the new gates.

As well, the Victoria Conference Centre has annexed the former Crystal Garden building, which adds 25,000 square feet of meeting space to the conference center's 65,000 total square feet.

Metro Toronto Convention Centre recently finished a $4.2 million project to refinish and reconfigure the pre-function space and Constitution Hall.

Three key developments are likely to affect how U.S. planners do business in Canada: the rising value of the Canadian dollar, a new program that supplants the former Goods and Service Tax rebates (see “Trip Tips!”), and beginning January 31, 2008, the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative dictate that Americans traveling to Canada by air, sea, or land will need valid passports — or a government-issued ID combined with a birth certificate — to return home.

Conference Canada/Facilities Update

Alberta

  • The new Le Germain Calgary is expected to open in 2009. The 150-room property will be part of a 20-story office tower in the city's central district.

  • Edmonton's Shaw Conference Centre debuted a new 26,000-square-foot hall in 2006. The addition, with large windows overlooking the North Saskatchewan River Valley and space for 1,200 guests banquet-style, increases the facility's total to 110,000 square feet.

British Columbia

  • Coast Hotels plans to open a new 220-room hotel in downtown Vancouver. Coast Coal Harbour Hotel is scheduled to open in fall 2009.

  • Loden Vancouver will open in phases beginning in February. The luxury boutique hotel will open with 76 guest rooms. The second phase, with an additional 54 guest rooms, will open in September. The hotel will include 3,500 square feet of meeting space and a 16-seat boardroom.

  • The Fairmont Pacific Rim is scheduled to join the Vancouver hotel scene in late 2009.

  • The 357 guest rooms at Vancouver's Empire Landmark Hotel are being renovated in phases. Work is scheduled to be complete by spring 2008.

  • Four Seasons Hotel Vancouver is in the midst of a $5.3 million renovation. Work will wrap up in spring 2008.

  • Vancouver will welcome a new Ritz-Carlton in 2011. The 127-room hotel will take up the first 20 floors of a 58-story mixed-use tower downtown.

  • Hyatt Regency Vancouver recently completed a six-year, $40 million renovation of all 644 guest rooms and public spaces.

  • Delta Vancouver Airport Hotel recently finished remodeling all meeting rooms and public spaces, which included the addition of a 525-square-foot meeting room.

  • The Executive Hotel Vintage Park is Vancouver's first wine-themed hotel. It has partnered with 35 regional wineries, which sponsor and personalize suites at the property. Each night, a complimentary wine sampling reception features the partners' products. The hotel has 130 suites and rooms and meeting space for up to 120 people.

  • Fairmont Hotels and Resorts is developing a hotel/condo project adjacent to the Vancouver Convention and Exhibition Centre. It is expected to open in mid-2009 and have 415 guest rooms.

  • Shangri-La Hotels and Resorts plans to open a new 119-room five-star hotel in Vancouver in fall 2008. It will occupy 15 floors of a new 60-story landmark building in the heart of downtown.

  • Lord Jim's Resort Hotel has been transformed into the Rockwater Secret Cove Resort. The nature-themed resort, accessible by a short ferry or seaplane ride from Vancouver, has a 900-square-foot meeting room.

  • Westin Bear Mountain Victoria Resort & Spa recently opened a Jack Nicklaus Golf Academy and added nine new holes to its 36-hole mountain golf course, designed by Jack and Steve Nicklaus.

  • The Sidney Pier Hotel & Spa opened recently in Sidney, 25 minutes north of Victoria and close to Victoria International Airport. The upscale boutique hotel includes 55 guest rooms and 1,388 square feet of meeting and banquet space.

  • In Whistler, Nita Lake Lodge opened recently. The resort includes 77 studio and one-bedroom suites and 4,000 square feet of meeting space.

  • Westin Kelowna, opening in mid-2009, will be a 220-room luxury condominium hotel. Located near Lake Okanagan, it will be equipped with a pool, hot tub, full-service spa, and fine dining restaurant.

Ontario

  • Shangri-La Toronto will open in 2011. The 220-room property will take over the first 17 floors of a 65-floor tower.

  • A new 265-room Four Seasons will open in Toronto in 2011.

  • The Hazelton Hotel debuted in August in Toronto with 77 guest rooms and suites. Meeting spaces include a 889-square-foot room, a private dining room that can seat up to 16, and 715 square feet of mirrored pre-function space.

  • International Centre in Toronto is adding an $11.5 million, 50,000-square-foot conference center to its existing 500,000 square feet of exhibit and meeting facilities. It will open in January 2008.

  • Direct Energy Centre, formerly Toronto's National Trade Centre, is adding a 75,000-square-foot conference facility and a hotel.

  • The 53-story Ritz-Carlton Hotel and Residences, Toronto will open in 2009 with a 267-room hotel and conference and meeting facilities.

  • Fairmont Château Laurier in Ottawa added 92 rooms to its existing 168 guest rooms and increased meeting rooms to 16, including a new ballroom.

Québec

  • Marriott will open a new 275-room hotel at Montréal's Trudeau Airport in summer 2008.

  • Hotel Westin Montréal is scheduled to open in April 2008 with more than 400 guest rooms and suites and 20,000 square feet of exhibition space.

  • L'Hotel Nelligan, a boutique hotel in Montréal's historic area, expanded to include 44 guest rooms, 59 suites, and a 3,500-square-foot banquet hall and a brasserie that groups can reserve.

  • Hotel Dauphin Montréal opened in Montréal's Quartier International close to the convention center in January 2007. It includes 72 rooms and suites and four small meeting rooms.

  • Québec City's Chateau Bonne Entente is spending $5.5 million on a new lobby and 28 suites.

  • The boutique Hotel Place d'Armes added 39 new rooms and 48 suites. The hotel has four meeting rooms and banquet facilities for up to 200 people.

  • The year-round resort Tremblant is in the midst of an $850 million expansion that will add six condominium hotels with 1,500 units by 2009, more than doubling the village's capacity. The project includes a multifunctional convention center, new boutiques and restaurants, and new activities.

Trip Tips

  • Credit card bills have “foreign currency” fees tacked on to each charge, which means that rooms, F&B, and so on will cost slightly more than they would have if you had paid in cash — whether U.S. or Canadian dollars.

  • On April 1, 2007, the Visitor Rebate Program was replaced by the Foreign Convention and Tour Incentive Program. Nonresident sponsors of foreign conventions (generally, events in which the sponsor and at least 75 percent of participants are not residents of Canada residents) can claim a rebate of the Goods and Services Tax and Harmonized Sales Tax paid for the convention facility and related convention supplies. Admission fees, exhibit fees, and sales of related convention supplies are not subject to the taxes. Info at www.fin.gc.ca

Ask the CVB

Banff/Lake Louise Tourism Bureau
(403) 762-8421
www.banfflakelouise.com
Total Hotel Tax: 10%*

Calgary CVB
(800) 661-1678, www.tourismcalgary.com
Total Hotel Tax: 11%*

Greater Halifax Conventions & Meetings Bureau
(877) 422-9334
www.meethalifax.com
Total Hotel Tax: 14%*

Québec City and Area Tourism and Conv. Bureau
(418) 522-3511
www.quebecregion.com/e/
Total Hotel Tax: 14%+$2 night*

Tourism British Columbia
(800) 663-6000
www.hellobc.com
Total Hotel Tax: 16%*

Tourism Vancouver
(604) 682-2222
www.tourismvancouver.com
Total Hotel Tax: 16%*

Tourism Toronto
(416) 203-2600
www.torontotourism.com
Total Hotel Tax: 14%*

Tourism Victoria
(250) 414-6987
www.tourismvictoria.com
Total Hotel Tax: 16%*

Tourism Whistler*
(888) 869-2777
www.whistlermeetings.com
Total hotel tax: 16%*

Tourisme Montréal*
(514) 844-5400
www.tourisme-montreal.org
Total Hotel Tax: 16.5% *

Travel Alberta*
(866) 511-1200
www.travelalberta.com
Total Hotel Tax: 10%
*includes 7% GST

Special Venues

  • British Columbia Ferries' Spirit Class vessels connecting Vancouver and Victoria offer conference rooms that can hold up to 20. Sailings take about 1 hour, 35 minutes, going past marine wildlife, seabirds, and island scenery. Rooms are equipped for AV and catering. www.bcferries.com

  • Sleeping Dog Farm & Retreat Centre, a five-acre organic farm 20 minutes north of Victoria, B.C., hosts workshops and events. It features two areas suitable for groups of up to 80. One is an acoustically designed round building with the Olympic Mountains as a backdrop; the other is surrounded by lawns and gardens. www.sleepingdogfarm.ca

  • In Vancouver, Aqua Riva restaurant, near the convention center, has a semi-private dining room that can accommodate groups of up to 40 people; the entire restaurant can be booked for groups of as many as 200. Fresh, local cuisine and local wines have made it a popular destination. The view from the dining room overlooks Vancouver's waterfront, the North shore skyline, and the busy harbor below. www.aquariva.com

Eco-Friendly Meetings

Convention facilities across Canada are recycling and getting smarter about energy, with Toronto's spaces at the forefront of efforts. The city hosted its first “zero-waste” convention, Professional Convention Management Association's annual meeting, in January 2007.

For PCMA, Metro Toronto Convention Centre staffers collected, sorted, and recycled all used paper products, bottles, and cans. They also collected all leftover organic food products for donation to Second Harvest or recycling into compost. Some 98.5 percent of waste material generated during the convention was diverted from landfills. The effort saved 57 trees, 20,000 gallons of water, 39,310 kWh of energy, 4,300 gallons of oil, 170 pounds of air pollutants, and 111 cubic yards of landfill space.

The Convention Centre, with a record of recycling 64 percent of all material, received the Building Owners and Managers Association “GO Green” designation in 2006.

In addition, Toronto's Direct Energy Centre runs an aggressive waste diversion program. Hotels are in on the act, too: The Fairmont Royal York Hotel recycles 85 percent of all materials.