3 Accolades That Prove Canada Is an Unparalleled Events Destination

Canadian cities have been recognized with major awards showcasing the country’s commitment to sustainability, immense knowledge capital offerings and outstanding conference infrastructure

Experts in Excellence
Experts in Excellence
Destination Canada Business Events' specific knowledge of this vast land makes this team a first stop for executives and organizers in key industry sectors seeking to tailor the right package for their event, whatever the size. Learn more at businesseventscanada.ca.

Laying the groundwork for meaningful, inspiring events begins with the perfect destination that combines cutting-edge facilities, access to renowned thought leaders and sector expertise. Canada has proudly hosted some of the most significant international events because it provides the foundation required to stage world-class meetings and conferences – and many of its vibrant cities have recently received prestigious recognition for excellence.

Canada’s distinguished leadership in six sectors – Technology, Finance and Insurance, Agribusiness, Natural Resources, Life Sciences, and Advanced Manufacturing – along with its spectacular landscapes and array of cultural activities, is a driving factor in bringing diverse people together from around to world to share best practices. And while accolades aren’t the only reason to choose your next host city, they do provide a good indication of areas in which this country excels.

Here are three award-winning cities that showcase a sampling of Canadian excellence from coast to coast to coast.

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Palais des congrés de Montréal Photo Credit: Palais MTL - Caroline Bergeron

1. Montréal boasts the highest ‘harnessing ratio’ in North America

With its world-class intellectual capital and top-tier talent, Montréal has been a prized destination for business events for decades. In fact, a recent report from GainingEdge declared the city has the highest “harnessing ratio” in North America. The harnessing ratio is based on the assertion that cities with a large number of business leaders on boards of international associations will bring more meetings to that city. As Montréal has the most active board members of any city in North America, it has the largest harnessing ratio. The result: the city has hosted and booked over 130 international conventions since January 2018. 

Montréal’s sophisticated local industry is bolstered through strong relationship-based programs designed to reward its valued partners. For example, the Palais des congrès’ Ambassadors Club helps promote the city and its industries by providing access to leading inspirational experts and changemakers that further attract events.

Across Canadian cities, planners can draw from similar ambassador networks that act as one-stop-shops, providing innovative speakers to round out conference programs. For example, Yoshua Bengio – founder of Quebéc’s MILA AI Institute and winner of the 2018 Turing Award, the ‘Nobel Prize of Computing’ for his pioneering work in deep learning – delivered the keynote address at the 2023 World Summit AI Americas, which took place in Montréal in April. The event, which brought together global AI leaders from enterprise, big tech, startups, academia, law, government and investment, is just one example of how planners can leverage Canada’s elite intellectual capital.

Centers of Excellence
Centers of Excellence
Canada is an ideal destination for business events in numerous innovative sectors. Click here to learn about Canada's leadership in sectors including technology, agribusiness, life sciences and more.

This intellectual expertise is not limited to Montréal. Business events held in cities throughout the country also gain access to state-of-the-art facilities such as Ottawa’s Area X.O, a research and development complex that helps innovators accelerate time-to-market and commercial adoption of next-gen technology across all sectors and scientific disciplines – from autonomous vehicles to agritech. This complex is just one of many reasons Ottawa has earned a stellar reputation as a global tech hub with the highest concentration of tech talent in North America.

Encouraging meaningful business-to-business exchanges is yet another strong Canadian offering, thanks to the country’s industry giants and pioneering startups across sectors including finance and insurance, where Toronto presents the perfect fit. As North America’s second-largest financial services hub after New York City – generating about $82 billion in GDP – Toronto makes it easy for organizations to find businesses that are leading in their arena.

The city employs more than 400,000 people in this sector and is home to the headquarters of Canada’s four largest banks, three of the top five largest Canadian insurers, eight of the country’s 10 largest Canadian asset managers and the largest chartered financial analyst society in the world. It’s also home to nearly 50 top universities and colleges.

Tapping into Canada’s intellectual capital means events professionals can elevate agendas, boost attendance and support, and save costs in the process. Hosting an event in a destination that promotes collaboration and innovation shows attendees they’re in for an enhanced and memorable experience. 

Local thought leaders and sector-specific experts, along with unforgettable site tours at top-notch facilities, bolster all aspects of a conference program. Access to these resources gives planners the foundation to create world-class events and networking opportunities designed to attract the brightest minds. Hosting meetings in an industry hub increases the buzz within professional networks, driving attendance, support and access to potential sponsorship. 

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Photo Credit: Lukas Schulze/Collision via Sportsfile*

Of course, the shifting economic climate means the bottom line is always top of mind. Here’s where tapping into Canada’s wealth of local keynotes and other experts can make all the difference – reducing transportation and lodging costs while also fueling interest from sponsors and funding agencies. Organizers of 2022’s Collision in Toronto, which drew 35,000 delegates from 130 countries, leveraged Canada’s intellectual capital to attract 250 partners and more than 700 investors. 

2. Ottawa’s Shaw Centre recently named ‘Best Convention Centre in the World’

Exceptional conference infrastructure tops most planners’ lists when staging a large event, and Ottawa offers an award-winning package that delivers. The city’s stunning Shaw Centre took home the coveted title of Best Convention Centre in the World at the most recent AIPC Apex Awards. Handed out bi-annually by the International Association of Convention Centres – which represents professional convention and exhibition center managers worldwide – the award recognizes excellence in facilities, operations, project management capabilities, catering and technical capacity. 

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The Shaw Centre, Ottawa

Ottawa’s convention center took the honor in 2020 after receiving the highest client rating from its peers, joining other Canadian facilities that have won recently including Vancouver in 2002 and 2008, and Quebéc City in 2006. Other notable winners from previous years include Spain’s Valencia Conference Center, which won in 2018, Australia’s Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre, which topped the list in 2016 and London’s Royal College of Physicians, recognized in 2012.

Canada boasts leading-edge conference infrastructure in many other cities. When it opens in June 2024, Calgary’s newly expanded one-million-square-foot BMO Centre will be the largest convention center in Western Canada – ready to welcome guests from around the world to its prized location at Stampede Park, home of the famous Calgary Stampede. The facility will anchor the exciting new Culture and Entertainment District in one of the most energetic convention cities in North America.

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BMO Centre Rendering Photo Credit: BMO Centre

Delegates will also be wowed when attending events hosted at the state-of-the-art Niagara Falls Convention Centre, located just 250 steps from the majestic falls, in the heart of Canada’s wine and culinary region. This area welcomes more than 14 million visitors, with easy access from three international airports.

And Montréal’s Palais des congrès has positioned itself as a future-forward solution centre: Its ground-breaking Events Lab features a partnership with 14 disruptive local companies and is an incubator for culture, tourism and entertainment. Offering everything from a biometric engagement indicator to customized mixology workshops, the facility can help planners design show-stopping experiences.

With a huge variety of accommodation options in Canada’s safe, diverse cities, attendees will flock to these destinations.

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Photo Credit: Destination British Columbia

3. The Vancouver Convention Centre is the world's first double LEED platinum certified convention venue

With its pioneering work in environmentally conscious design and management, Vancouver is known as world leader in sustainability. So it’s no wonder the Vancouver Convention Centre was the first in the world to achieve double LEED Platinum certification: In 2009, it was certified for Building Design and Construction and in 2017 for Building Operations and Maintenance. The Centre has become a landmark green building and model for other facilities around the world, with many enviable sustainability initiatives including robust water conservation, energy efficiency and waste management system. 

Vancouver is just one example of Canada’s commitment to sustainability in many facets of the events industry. Last year, Destination Canada launched the Canadian Business Events Sustainability Plan. This first-of-its-kind national program intends to improve the economic, social, and environmental sustainability practices of business events hosted in the country by providing turnkey programs to global clients and partners. In doing so, the Plan will drive awareness and action, raising sustainability standards across the country.

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Photo Credit: Explore Edmonton

Many Canadian cities, however, already have ambitious sustainability initiatives in place. Edmonton’s Responsible Events Program aligns with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and helps ensure delegates can participate in socially and environmentally responsible programs that give back to the community. Some examples include donating food to the Edmonton Food Bank’s Second Helping Program, the City Cleanup Program and Urban Farm Experience. The convention center is also sponsoring a beehouse to promote urban biodiversity and local pollination.

The Metro Toronto Convention Centre is committed to reducing its environmental footprint by diverting 90 percent of event waste from landfill and by decreasing energy consumption. As one of the first convention facility in Canada to offer planners the option to use clean energy, the MTCC is also working to reduce CO2 emissions during event move-in and move-out by collaborating with the app Voyage Control. 

And in Québec City, an unwavering commitment led to the creation of a Sustainable Development Action Plan at its convention center: The Québec City Convention Centre collects compostable materials in prep kitchens and when clearing food functions, offers regional ingredient-based menus and beverages, and distributes surplus food to charitable organizations.

Canada’s sustainability mindset means that when your organization hosts an event here, you’ll always have strong partners helping you achieve your sustainability goals. 

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Photo Credit: City of Toronto

Canada’s turnkey offerings lay the foundation for inspiring events

Planners seeking to align sustainability programming, exceptional venues and robust knowledge capital will find these elements, plus so much more, in Canada’s vibrant cities from coast to coast to coast. Add on the easy accessibility of any of these cosmopolitan cities, and the wealth of diverse cultural offerings and the natural beauty that can be found in this vast country, and you can truly bring your event to new heights.

This is just a small taste of what visiting organizations can expect when hosting an event in Canada, where business event professionals can guide you to your best conference yet.  

For impartial insights, inspiration, and introductions, contact the Destination Canada team: Virginie De Visscher, Senior Director, Business Events, Destination Canada. Devisscher.virginie@destinationcanada.com

Learn more at www.businesseventscanada.ca

* License for Collision image can be found here.

Top photo: Eva Blue - Tourisme Montréal