Members of B.C.’s tourism and hospitality sector head north later this month for their annual industry-wide conference – an opportunity to learn, collaborate and celebrate.
The B.C. Tourism and Hospitality Conference, March 1 to 3 at the Prince George Conference and Civic Centre, is a joint initiative of the Tourism Industry Association of B.C. and the B.C. Hotel Association.
The conference, which also features the 2023 BC Tourism and Hospitality Awards, expects to welcome 300 to 350 representatives from across the tourism sector.
After two years of navigating evolving COVID protocols, the theme for this year’s conference is the welcome “All Systems Go!” and Ingrid Jarrett, President and CEO of the BC Hotel Association, and Walk Judas, CEO of the Tourism Industry Association of B.C., are both excited to bring the conference north for the first time.
Typically hosted in southwestern B.C., this is the first time the conference has ventured into the province’s northern communities – made possible this year thanks to the committed collaboration of industry partners including Tourism Prince George, Northern BC Tourism Association and the local Indigenous communities.
“It’s really important to recognize this is the first time the conference will take place in the north,” Judas notes. “I think the experience for delegates will be very unique and very memorable, and people will really enjoy the experience of being in Prince George.”
Opening with a keynote from Moccasin Trails co-founder, Chief Frank Antoine, from the Bonaparte First Nation, attendees can expect a powerful address from an insightful and engaging speaker, Judas says. Following will be a town hall session with industry leaders, and a welcome reception at the New Caledonia Nordic Ski Centre, complete with opportunities to try cross-country skiing and snowshoeing.
Thursday continues with breakfast and a plenary session with Destination Canada, break-out sessions with Destination BC, discussions exploring workplace safety, leadership lessons from Indigenous women in tourism, impacts of the short-term rental market, tourism sustainability, successful grant writing and more.
As the industry prepares to launch into a new season, the diverse program will offer strategies and tactics to build business, develop new products and services, and tackle vital issues such as reconciliation, sustainability and diversity, equity and inclusion, in addition to issues persisting after years of uncertainty and pandemic-related challenges.
“I believe the landscape of our industry will never be the same and that shouldn’t be a surprise because things are always changing,” Jarrett says.
At the same time, the industry in British Columbia has much to be excited about, given the position the province holds in the eyes of people from around the globe as thoughtful, caring, clean and safe, Jarrett says. With that in mind, work is ongoing to support healthy workplaces and healthy communities that are key for the sector’s ongoing success. “It really all dovetails into each other and builds out the brand that is British Columbia.”
Attendees can also learn about a variety of topics that haven’t been covered over the last few years, Judas says, pointing to discussions on biometrics and facial recognition in the aviation industry, and emergency management – top of mind after the recent earthquakes in Turkey and Syria.
Anna Pollack, founder of Conscious Travel, delivers the final plenary session Friday and speaks to the conscious traveller, regenerative tourism and trends internationally, Jarrett says.
“She’s always a very insightful and thoughtful speaker who has really good information and presents it in such an engaging way,” Judas agrees.
Saluting the best of the best
In addition to a wide array of speakers and informative sessions, the conference also highlights the best of the best with the B.C. Tourism and Hospitality Awards, celebrating excellence, leadership and innovation, and showcasing the province’s best products, services, experiences and people.
“Celebrating our award recipients is always a highlight for me. We had 117 nominations and they were incredible – the adjudicators had a big job!” Jarrett says.
For people in the hospitality industry, the annual conference really is a highlight of the year.
“We love to get together, we love to be sociable and we love to celebrate excellence,” Jarrett says, encouraging those who haven’t yet registered to sign up, and take advantage of savings on flights and accommodations that have been arranged, in addition to fun experiences like the welcome reception, awards and sensational silent auction.
“The glory of the winter in north central B.C., if you’ve never been before, is something to behold, and the people are so welcoming,” she says.
Register for the BC Tourism and Hospitality Conference at bctourismandhospitalityconference.com/registration