With record high tourism numbers on the Island this year, it isn’t surprising that the number of people coming to the Island for business meetings and conventions is also on the rise.
Ann Worth of Meetings and Conventions P.E.I. leads an organization that makes sure those meetings and conventions run smoothly.
Originally from Halifax, Worth joined the not-for-profit destination marketing organization in 2015 as its executive director. She has also been the owner and president of Worth Consulting Group since 2005 and served as executive director of the Prince Edward Island Aquaculture Alliance from 2011 to 2015.
Located on Queen Street in Charlottetown, the organization is finalizing its 2017 numbers. So far, the projections are showing increases compared to 2016, such as 29,272 nightly room stays in 2017 – a 10-per-cent increase compared to 2016 and 122 meetings – a 21-per-cent increase. The Island also had 18,347 delegates visit last year, a 15-per-cent increase. Those delegates had an estimated $20 million direct impact on the economy in terms of spending.
Worth sat down with The Guardian this week to talk about the role of the organization, economic development and some insights behind hosting a meeting or convention.
Q: You became the executive director in 2015. Why did you want the job?
A: The opportunity to promote P.E.I. to meeting planners was really exciting to me. Our destination is incredible as a place for meetings and conventions. As an island that’s very unique, our ability to offer authentic experiences to visitors, I absolutely felt that this organization was really, really important because it exposed the destination to people that often have never been here before. So, that really appealed to me about the position.
Q: What does Meetings and Conventions P.E.I. do?
A: We really are the experts, or at least part of that expert team, that introduces people to the Island and all that they need to make a great meeting and convention happen here. So, you think about the breadth of hotels and places where people can stay. The unique meeting venues that we have, including the P.E.I. Convention Centre, that has a really large-scale opportunity to host larger, national conventions. So, from small unique venues to larger-scale convention centres. And then, all those support services. You think of all the entertainment and activities people can do while they’re here. Professional services like audio-visual and sound. Transportation services. All those elements that people need to plan and deliver a great conference, we have the pulse of who is doing that here and, of course, they are our members, who we work really close with. Our organization represents well over 200 companies tip to tip in the province that have a specialization of delivering meeting and convention experiences.
Q: According to the projected numbers for 2017, the number of meetings, delegates and nightly room stays are up compared to 2016. What is behind the increases?
A: Canada experienced the last two years combined over 10-per-cent growth in inbound tourism into the country. So, we are definitely seeing the results of some of that. But I think also meeting planners are looking for really authentic places, something different off the beaten track. And, those big, urban centres aren’t necessarily the picture of what people want to experience when they’re attending meetings these days. They want rest. They want to restore themselves. And, they want to be in a place that has that kind of backdrop and scenery and fresh air and beauty, where people can feel relaxed in that setting. So, increasingly in business, we’re seeing people trying to combine those things in their convention experiences, and that bodes really well for our province.
Q: How does Meetings and Conventions P.E.I. contribute to economic development on the Island?
A: We’re fortunate to have strategic partnerships with the provincial department of tourism and the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency. And that partnership presents our project activities on a year-round basis and proposes them to partner and cost share some of those activities. Meetings and Conventions is really all about economic development. When you consider delegates spend almost $1,200 in terms of direct spending while they’re here as a footprint, and you combine that with the number of delegates that we host annually, it’s easy to see the direct impact of $20 million plus on an annual basis. I think what people don’t necessarily see beyond the spending in restaurants and retail and taxis and all of that is the very important job opportunities that are provided through tourism, through Meetings and Conventions, which is really a year-round business. So, in some cases, that convention in October or November, for example, may be the reason that a number of people employed continue to be employed year-round or even quite late in the season. This is one of the foundations and reasons why we’re trying to build shoulder season tourism on P.E.I. – to ensure that seasonality is eliminated. So, that means creating great experiences for convention delegates 12 months of the year. And, we can do it. We have amazing winter (and spring) activities that people can participate in.