DURING MY FIRST VISIT to Vancouver three decades ago, I spent my days walking the city’s wet and foggy streets, spent hours in Chinatown’s 1940s-era Ovaltine Café, ate mussels and oysters at the public market stalls on Granville Island, attended an NHL hockey game and met a pretty girl on the SeaBus to North Vancouver. With snowcapped mountains hovering above the city’s skyline and a chilly sea mist blowing in off the harbor, I could always detect a fresh, cleansing hint of brine in the air.
After several subsequent visits, it is wonderful to see Vancouver, even with all its new glass and steel towers, remains the same magical, breathtakingly beautiful and friendly outpost on the far western edge of the continent. What has changed, however, is Vancouver’s deepening green philosophy, a reality MICE planners truly appreciate.
Vancouver can already claim the smallest carbon footprint of any major North American city. With an ongoing commitment to mixed-use development, abundant green space, efficient public transit and sustainable building standards, it consistently ranks among the world’s greenest cities. Its destination marketing organization, Tourism Vancouver, was the first in North America with a sustainable destination specialist.
Vancouver expects to experience one of the busiest MICE years in its history, good news for the Vancouver Convention Centre, the city’s premier exhibition and conventions facility. With its harbor-front location and stunning sea and mountain views, the VCC offers one of the most beautiful settings in the world. The addition of the VCC’s West Building in 2009 and its six-acre living green roof tripled the center’s meeting, exhibition, ballroom and theater space to 466,500 square feet.
Amenities like a seawater heating and cooling system, on-site water treatment and a fish habitat built into the foundation of the West Building make the VCC one of the greenest convention centers in the world. The building’s heating and cooling system feeds through the deep water of the harbor, using it as a constant temperature base to reduce the amount of energy used. Along with the East Building, which shares space with a cruise ship terminal and the Pan Pacific Hotel, the VCC is the world’s first double LEED Platinum-certified convention center.
“The global business events industry is extremely competitive, and to once again receive top rankings in the Watkins Report that represents the views of nearly 1,000 meeting planners is both humbling and inspiring,” said Claire Smith, vice president of sales and marketing, Vancouver Convention Centre. “We are truly proud of these results that speak to the strength of our entire hospitality and events community and the global appeal of the Vancouver Convention Centre and the destination.”
Vancouver offers a number of well-established, deluxe hotels MICE groups enjoy, including the Hyatt Regency (644 rooms), Pan Pacific (503), Fairmont Waterfront (489), Four Seasons (372), Fairmont Pacific Rim (367), Rosewood Hotel Georgia (156) and the Shangri-La (119). Metro Vancouver boasts more than 23,000 hotel rooms, with about 12,000 in the downtown core. The residual effects of the 2010 Winter Olympics, the city’s booming cruise ship industry, its exceptional cuisine and its green reputation all contributed to Vancouver hosting a record 10 million-plus visitors annually in the past few years, with Vancouver International Airport adding more than 20 new routes.
“I cannot think of any other convention destination that checks all of the boxes like Vancouver does,” Leslie Zeck, director of meetings, International and American Associations for Dental Research, said of her recent Vancouver convention experience. “After planning meetings all across the globe, I can say that organizing or attending a meeting in Vancouver just allows everyone to breathe easier. Vancouver as a destination is the formula for success.”
The newest MICE accommodations and meeting venues can be found at Parq Vancouver, a mixed-use, downtown “resort destination” project designed by Canadian firms ACDF Architecture and Architecture49 and built to meet LEED gold standards. Opened in 2017 and located next to BC Place sports arena, Parq’s three towers contain two hotels; a JW Marriott occupies the twin towers on the eastern side of the complex, while the third tower houses The DOUGLAS hotel, opened in 2018.
Together, the properties offer more than 470 rooms and 55 luxury suites. Both hotels provide guests with convenient access to Parq Vancouver’s wide range of amenities, including eight restaurants and lounges; downtown’s only casino; a 30,000-square-foot elevated park with trees located six floors above street level; a Spa by JW; and a modern fitness center. Parq Vancouver also includes 60,000 square feet of meeting and event space; 13 boardrooms; and the 15,000-squarefoot Parq Grand Ballroom, the largest hotel ballroom in Vancouver.
“Parq was conceived as the missing link between the active environment of BC Place stadium and the downtown core’s thriving entertainment district,” said Maxime-Alexis Frappier, the project’s lead design architect at ACDF. “We have put forward a design that not only fulfills that role but which also captures the essence of the city and its breathtaking natural surroundings.”
Expected to open this year, the SeaSide Hotel offers 72 rooms, ocean-facing spa suites and a lobby bar. Situated on the North Vancouver waterfront, the property is part of The Shipyards, a new development easily accessed from the Vancouver Convention Centre via a 12-minute SeaBus passenger ferry. The hotel will not have its own meeting space, but planners can arrange private group space at Joey Shipyards, a 9,000-square-foot restaurant next door featuring a patio and theater kitchen.
Located on the beautiful west side of Vancouver, the University of British Columbia offers The Nest, a five-story facility with 250,000 square feet of LEED Platinum meeting and event space, opened in 2015. It houses eight eateries, two of which offer a full venue buy-out; 33 state-of-the-art breakout rooms; and 12 event spaces ranging from 100 to 11,000 square feet. A three-story rock climbing wall offers a mid-meeting adrenaline rush. Catering menus at the 600-person Great Hall ballroom are 100 percent Ocean Wise certified, supporting the venue’s commitment to ethical and sustainable food.
Coastal Mountains scenery makes the Sea to Sky Gondola Summit Lodge, 45 minutes from Vancouver in Squamish, British Columbia, one of the best places in Canada to organize a MICE meeting or recreational event for about 100 persons. Arrange for hiking, rock climbing, mountain biking, backcountry skiing, snowshoeing or team building, as well as private functions in the lodge’s Diamond Head room.
In North Vancouver, Two Rivers Specialty Meats boasts a traditional working butchery, complete with a glass-walled dry-age room; a Europeanstyle deli; and a 32-seat, eat-in restaurant, all laid out on a terrazzo-floored, 2,500-square-foot industrial space with an additional 16-seat patio. Great for small MICE groups.
United Airlines’ environmentally friendly efforts lessen the impact on local U.S. communities.
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The addition of 50 high-end Explorer Cabins upped Tenaya Lodge at Yosemite’s game in the rustic-luxury market by attracting those who want upscale amenities but desire an outdoorsy mountain experience — “cabineering,” as Tenaya calls it, or roughing it in the woods without the rough part.
The Boeing 737 MAX cancellations will continue through the new year and at least one airline is keeping them grounded even longer to avoid disruptions down the line.
Experience a big-city hotel stay that doesn’t feel like your typical urban visit at Chicago’s Claridge House, nestled in the sought-after Gold Coast neighborhood. The hotel’s sophisticated décor and serene residential ambience foster the atmosphere of an oasis amid the hustle and bustle of a busy metropolis.
Holland America’s Club Orange premium amenities program is available on all ships as of this month. Previously only available on nine, Club Orange provides guests with stateroom upgrades, access to onboard events and extra privileges such as a dedicated concierge hotline. Newly available through Club Orange is the upgrade guests receive to the best available stateroom at the time of purchase. Guests also now enjoy a surprise event during the cruise, ranging from a behind-the-scenes tour to a private meet-and-greet with onboard entertainers.