The Calgary Telus Convention Centre is taking the necessary steps to catch up to other major cities worldwide by hiring its first international correspondent who will be based in London, England.
To attract international conventions to Calgary, Sue Wilkes will represent the facility in Europe as the international business development manager.
With 55 per cent of international associations headquartered in Europe, Wilkes will have the opportunity to build relationships with different associations and encourage them to hold their conferences in Calgary.
“When Sue is there, she’s there to elevate the brand of Calgary and really connect with folks that are interested in Calgary,” said Clark Grue, convention centre president and CEO.
“I think it’s a really exciting step for Calgary as a city to have someone in London who’s connecting and looking for opportunities to either bring economic impact here, through investment or whatever that might look like, and conventions and tourism. It’s about Calgary, for us.”
International associations are groups for people attached to different professions and fields of study. There are associations for all types of fields, like business, science or law. The conferences that are organized by these associations can attract people from anywhere in the world.
Many large cities around the world already have international representatives, so Calgary is new to the trend. Toronto and Vancouver convention bureaus already have representatives in London.
“My role will be to connect the dots and get people communicating and connected to start bidding for some of these events — bringing them to the city and to the (convention centre),” said Wilkes.
The University of Calgary and Calgary Economic Development will play a role in selecting which industries the centre connects with. Based on their suggestions, Wilkes will be looking to connect with international associations in energy, technology, brain and mental health or financial services, for example.
“To profile Calgary as a place for innovation and advancement in the scientific areas is a good message to spread for what’s happening in Calgary,” said Grue.
Calgary is the perfect size to host the average 1,500-2,500 person convention, which is the most common European conventions, according to Grue. At the current rate, the Calgary facility hosts around 25 conventions every year, but with Wilkes positioned in London, they hope to add five or six European conventions to that number.
There are generally greater economic benefits associated with European conventions. According to Grue, this can be attributed to the longer travel time from Europe to Calgary which often results in lengthier visits and people bringing their family or spouses along. There can be employment or business benefits as well, as conferences can bring big-name companies, like Apple or Google, to Calgary.
Wilkes has over 30 years of experience and networking around the world, for organizations in countries like Australia and the U.S. She wants to see Calgary receive the international recognition she feels the city deserves, through the international association conventions.
“There’s all sorts of stuff that’s happening here and that’s why we can have good connections,” she said. “It’s aligning everything, putting everybody together and presenting a really united front to the rest of the world to get people to come here.”
On Twitter: @BabychStephanie