Cathy Macdonald Talks Meetings in Banff, Alberta

By Wendy Helfenbaum, January 27, 2017

Cathy Macdonald BanffCombining outdoor adventures in the Rocky Mountains with rustic elegance in its lodging and meeting spaces, Banff, Alberta, is seeing an uptick among international groups seeking a breath of fresh air. Cathy Macdonald, senior manager of MICE business development for Banff & Lake Louise Tourism, shares why the resort town is a spectacular spot for meetings.

What makes Banff special as a MICE destination?

In a world where there’s so much duplication, Banff delivers an experience like no other. We’re located in a valley floor, so the mountains surround us. There are incredible views, whether you’re walking to your meeting, having dinner, relaxing in your room, attending a reception or enjoying off-site activities. Knowing you’re somewhere unique has a powerful impact on people. It touches you. Twenty years later, people will come back and say, “I remember Banff; that was the most magical trip.”

Does Banff attract a certain type of group?

Banff is a viable destination for all market segments. It’s a 90-minute drive from Calgary International Airport. It’s easy to do business here and give something extra to attendees in the way of the scenery.

With associations, when people see a program is coming to Banff, they say, “Oh! I’ve always wanted to go there,” and it drives attendance. We typically see a 4 to 7 percent increase in attendance the year a program is in Banff. We rarely have attrition problems because people want to come here, including international delegates. It crosses all boundaries of age too. Associations are struggling to get younger people, and Banff pulls people in. It also drives speakers. On the incentive side, Banff is that bucket-list destination—an experience people just don’t have in their normal lives.

How have meetings in Banff changed from five years ago?

We are seeing growth from the European markets for incentive programming and increasing interest from international associations as international air access is expanding.

We’re growing as a destination for meetings and incentives that occur during the winter season. Planners are starting to take advantage of the value with more availability with hotels and lower rates. Winter programming offers a fantastic alternative that allows attendees to get out of the norm. When I talk about winter programs, I say, “We’re not going to make you shovel the sidewalks!” It’s a heightened experience—the magical version of winter, not the drudgery of winter. Winter in Banff is dogsledding across the Continental Divide, seeing peaks and mountains, and ice-skating on Lake Louise with the glaciers in view.

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