Interview with Michele Saran, Executive Director, Business Events Canada

Michele Saran, Executive Director, Business Events Canada Shares Exciting New Strategies and Products for the Incentive Travel Industry

Michele Saran is Executive Director of Business Events Canada (BEC), the division of the Canadian Tourism Commission (CTC) responsible for bringing meetings, conventions and incentive programs to Canada. In 2013, the unit, formerly known as Meetings, Conventions and Incentive Travel (MC&IT), refined its focus and strategy and has introduced a new brand to take it forward: Business Events Canada (BEC). As a Site Strategic Partner, Site values its relationship with BEC. We invited Michele to share more about BEC’s sales/marketing strategies and some of the new, exciting products Canada has to offer the global incentive travel industry.

Site: In 2013, CTC-MC&IT has become know as Business Events Canada (BEC), please share the thoughts and strategy behind the branding?

Saran: Business Events Canada is more than just a name change. It was created with a lot of thought and purpose to contribute to the objectives of the Canadian Government Global Commerce Strategy. Meetings, conventions and incentive travel attract close to two million visitors each year to Canada with total spending of $1.7 billion—almost a quarter of all money spent by inbound overnight travellers. Canada is the No. 1 location for outbound meetings business from the US, which brings in about $1.4 billion annually. The new BEC brand reflects the growing significance of the global MICE industry to Canada’s economy.

CTC’s BEC is planning to partner with Corporate Canada and the Department of Foreign Affairs with the intent to demonstrate how meetings, events and incentive travel can create a lasting legacy. Meetings and events held in Canada can be the first spark that ignites interest in doing business that leads to investment in the country as well as exploration of the unique experiences that Canada offers international travellers.

The Global Commerce Strategy is focused on seven priority business sectors where Canada holds a competitive advantage. These priorities are in line with the areas in which Canada is internationally recognized as a centre of excellence. CTC’s BEC team is leading its sales approach on aerospace, agriculture and food, clean technology, infrastructure/engineering, information/communication technology, life sciences and natural resources. We are currently conducting a beta test focused on international companies in the life sciences industry, which includes pharmaceutical and medical device firms. We are also keeping an eye on attracting more business opportunities from emerging markets such as Brazil, India and China.

Site: What are some of BEC’s new products and sales/marketing strategies for the incentive travel sector?

Saran: Canada has been very successful in soliciting business from the association realm. Given that our major partners all have satellite offices in-market, BEC decided to avoid redundancy and focus on pursuing leads from the corporate and incentive sectors. We have established a new program called Incentive Canada Marketplace to showcase the plethora of unique options that Canada offers for incentive travel programs. Incentive Canada Marketplace is managed as an actual incentive program, but the schedule includes a day and a half of “marketplace” sessions wherein appointments are pre-scheduled for both the buyers and the suppliers. The program also includes an educational component. This year’s program was held at the extraordinary Sparking Hills Resort in Okanagan, British Columbia, which opened in 2010. Owned by Mr. Gernot Langes Swarovski, patriarch of the Swarovski crystal dynasty, the European inspired destination wellness resort combines the elegance of dazzling Swarovski crystal elements with the natural splendor of the Okanagan.

Site: Why should planners put Canada at the top of the list of ideal destinations for incentive travel?

Saran: Canada is the second biggest country in the world and, unlike sun and sand destinations; you will never have to repeat an itinerary twice. BEC can offer incentive planners unique and authentic incentive travel experiences that are meaningful, motivational and leave long- lasting impressions on participants. Plus, we deliver big-time on the back end! We have a Site Inspection program that is second to none and will cover the expenses to bring planners and corporate decision-makers to explore the myriad of Canadian destinations and motivational experiences. 

Canada offers so much more than just sophisticated urban centers like Toronto, Montreal, Quebec and Vancouver. Exciting outdoor adventures include kayaking alongside beluga whales; hiking forest trails where bears come to play; mushing a team under the Northern Lights; and, of course, we offer all winter sports with the perfect mix of pristine blue skies and firm white powder on the slopes.

Spas and fishing have become two of the most popular activities, even more popular than golf, and you are not going to find these any better than in Canada. Participants can fish in lakes that have never been fished in and relax and re-energize at luxurious spas at new 5-star resorts such as the KurSpa at Sparkling Hill Resort. The 40 thousand sq. ft. spa is the largest in Canada, incorporating 48 treatment rooms, seven steam and sauna rooms, aqua mediation, Serenity lounge, Kneipp water therapy pool, outdoor infinity pool and indoor pool with starry crystal sky.

The 2014 Incentive Travel Marketplace, scheduled for July in St. John’s, Newfoundland, will offer a totally different Canadian perspective and experience. Participants will be immersed in the unique aspects and culture of this exciting destination. They will be invited to attend “kitchen parties” in St. John’s homes and will meet the nicest people and savor some of the best seafood in Canada.

BEC appreciates its partnership with Site and remains committed to supporting the meetings and incentive travel industry with innovative programming and products for years to come. If you are attending IMEX America this year, please stop by Booth 1327 to meet up with Business Events Canada and its partners from coast-to-coast to discover more about all the new and dynamic incentive travel experiences in Canada.

Learn more about Site's partnership with BEC.

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