Travel Alberta is helping meeting planners “Remember to Breathe.” The slogan is meant to set Alberta, Canada apart from the pack based on a combination of great value, accessibility and seamless urban/nature experiences in and around Calgary and Edmonton. We spoke with Brian Slot of Travel Alberta to learn more.
According to Slot, there’s a strong business objective tying into the slogan as well. The peaceful uncongested cities and natural landscape where you “Remember to Breathe” inspires innovation, focus, well-being and clear conversation.
Can you tell us about the “Remember to Breathe” campaign and what it means?
We’ve had that campaign running for about three years. We really wanted to set ourselves apart from other destinations. When they are coming here, they are getting all aspects of a destination. We like to call it am emotional pie. It started as a leisure campaign. The type of customer we are going for are free spirits. That’s what Alberta is. Anything you want to do , you can do. Whether you are on a budget, if you want something high end, whether you want something 24 hours a day—anything you want, you can do. That ties into the meetings side as well. The types of groups and organizations that are coming here are those free spirited types that just want to relax and breathe. They want to think outside the box. We get so caught up in our daily lives all the time. When you head into Alberta, you can look out at the landscape and actually think about doing different things, that’s where the business model for groups comes in.
What is unique about booking Calgary for groups?
We set ourselves apart because we don’t have sales tax. Our industries are very strong and are doing well. We have a lot of space for groups, but it’s very easy to get around. There’s great value here. Winter is our low season, but it’s still very beautiful. There’s value coming during the winter and it’s a perfect time to come. In other popular destinations like Utah and Denver, winter is the more popular time to come. In Alberta, winter is our slower season compared to summer so there is great value for groups.
What about accessibility into the U.S.?
We have direct flights from almost everywhere in the U.S. and traveling in and out of Canada is just as easy. We have just as much access as Vancouver does. The fact that Banff and Vancouver are so close, you can do a pre/post here. It’s very popular with European incentive groups. Most flights land in the mid afternoon, so you can head right into the mountains and enjoy three or four days. Then, head back into Calgary for the last day or two and enjoy that area as well. You can take 5, 6, 7 days and incorporate the city and the mountains together.
Edmonton is easy accessible and is going to change a lot in the next few years. There’s a new arena and a couple new hotels. It’s going to totally change the landscape into a totally conference-friendly city. The conference center is built on the valley outside the river, so the views are just spectacular.
The Calgary International Airport is building a new international terminal that will wrap in 2015. The new runway will be the longest in North America, to bring in larger planes, to really add more international flights. That will open in 2014.
What are some examples of what groups will be doing during their down time while visiting the area?
We are a four season destination, but we get a really nice sumer, the fall colors are spectacular, we get a winter with a bit of snow, but it is not as cold as people think. We get over 300 days of sunshine, which is very typical of the Rocky Mountains and the foothills that surround it. Even though the days are cold, it feels warm since there isn’t a lot of wind and plenty of sunshine. Activities can be extreme or just relaxing.. even both. Our guides can make activities as difficult or simple as the group wants. Ice climbing or ice walking, dog sledding, skiing, snowboarding and snow shoeing. You can pretty much go anywhere with a guide to get a good description of the landscape you are walking in. Northern lights viewing is popular in Oct to January. We are in a great locations to look at the northern lights. Once you get outside the city, you are in a great place to view the stars.
How can planners localize their events in Alberta?
We put a real focus on Rocky Mountain cuisine. We are known for serving dishes like elk, beef, game meats, bison and caribou. One of the things we use in the winter is a fire and ice themed event. We do an outdoor event at a hotel venue or offsite. A popular venue Cave and Basin is a national historic site that has recently been renovated. We bring in ice carvings and have camp fires to keep people warm. That’s a very popular theme that we choose based on the area. We have outfitters that supply warm clothes for attendees if they need warmer clothes.
What offsite activities do you recommend for a group?
Some of the hotels off hot spring excursions for groups. The national park in Banff was established due to the number of hot springs found in the area.
It’s up to the client on what they are looking to do, but my recommendation would be to head out to the Rocky Mountains upon arrival and then head back into Calgary in the afternoon and spend a couple days viewing the sites. That way, they are close to the airport.
Are there any specific venues you’d want to highlight?
In the Banff and Lake Louise area, there’s a place called the Brewster’s Lake Louise Dance Bar. They do a great, authentic Rocky Mountain themed event for groups up to 1,500. Also, the Sulfur Mountains Banff Gondola experience actually has been recently renovated. It’s best for a daytime event because it gets dark a little earlier, but it’s great in the summer for scenic dinners.
What are the most popular group hotels?
Hotels include three Banff properties, including the historic Banff Springs Hotel, built over 125 years ago. It was put there to really start the whole Rocky Mountain tourism experience. It has 700 rooms and over 70,000 sf of meeting space. It’s the largest resort meeting’s facility in North America. The Rimrock Resort Hotel has 350 rooms and 20,000 sf of meeting space, located right next to the hot springs. It has great views of the valley and perfect for groups wanting consistency for the group views. The Banff Center is an arts and conference facility was built for group business with a very scenic backdrop from the meeting rooms with natural light.