As the pandemic took hold and industries shutdown earlier this year, Meetings Mean Business Canada immediately adopted a tactical shift and tone of greater urgency as it advocated to federal and provincial decision makers on behalf of the meetings and business events sector.
“Our work has to some extent shifted and amplified,” Clark Grue, who begins the second of a two-year term as chair of the coalition, told MMBC’s annual general meeting on November 24, 2020. “In February, we’d had excellent conversations with the federal government about the importance of business events. When the shutdown happened in March, we began to change the tone of our advocacy in Ottawa and the provinces, towards support, protocols and ways to reopen.”
At the beginning of the year, MMBC and the Tourism Industry Association of Canada (TIAC), entered into a strategic agreement to provide direct benefits to their respective members and align the advocacy work of both organizations. In February, MMBC joined TIAC, tourism stakeholders and members of the Provincial Territorial Tourism Industry Association of Canada (PTTIA) in a series of meetings with MPs and Senators from all political parties to demonstrate the economic importance of tourism and business meetings and events in Canada.
During the 2020 AGM, Grue, along with Vince Accardi, MMBC executive director and TIAC’s acting CEO, detailed some of the coalition’s key efforts throughout the year:
- MMBC’s first response to the economic shutdown was to focus on survival advocacy and industry communication. Efforts targeted immediate support for the industry, identifying and reporting gaps in government programs and helping businesses and individuals access support.
- MMBC joined industry leaders from across Canada in developing a tourism recovery plan, which was provided to the federal government as an early roadmap. During the September 23, 2020 Throne Speech, the federal government specifically recognized the visitor economy as a sector that requires further support.
- MMBC worked as a coalition partner with the Canadian Travel & Tourism Roundtable as well as the Coalition of Hardest Hit Businesses to align member voices in the push for federal relief.
- MMBC worked with TIAC and industry stakeholders on an $82-million proposal asking for more funding to help business events in recovery.
- MBBC launched a provincial–territorial letter-writing campaign calling on governments to support meetings and business events, to highlight industry safety protocols, to stop the sector from being lumped in with rules covering mass gatherings, and to ask governments to fast-track the reopening of the sector.
- MMBC executive members helped launch and participated in provincial task forces to advise governments on protocols for returning to safe meetings and business events, and supported the advocacy efforts of industry groups such as Convention Centres Canada, Canadian Association of Exhibition Managers, Hotel Association of Canada and the Coalition of Hardest Hit Businesses.
- MMBC participated in the 2020 Tourism Town Hall series presented by TIAC, Destination Canada and local host partners, which engaged small and medium-sized business owner-operators across Canada.
- MMBC participated in TIAC’s 2020 Tourism Congress, which was attended by the industry as well as members of parliament and ministry policy staff. Convention Centres Canada and Destination Toronto also hosted sessions on the value of meetings and business events.
- On April 14, MMBC supported Global Meetings Industry Day, which took place online and drew over 15,000 registrations from 173 countries. Five months later, MMBC hosted a follow-up webinar focused on how Canadian business events are working to get back on track.
The 2020-2021 MMBC executive team and board of directors was approved during the November 24 AGM:
Chair: Clark Grue, Rainmaker Global
Vice chair: Laura Pallotta, Marriott Canada
Secretary: Grant Snider, Meeting Escrow
Past chair: Heidi Welker, Encore Global
Board of Directors
Scott Beck, Tourism Toronto
Krista Cameron, PCMA Canada East Chapter
Karen Goossen, Tourism Winnipeg
Lorenz Hassenstein, Metro Toronto Convention Centre
Miranda Ji, Victoria Conference Centre
Jeff Nearing, Discover Halifax
Christina Northcott, MPI Toronto
Laura Purdy, Exhibition Place
Barry Smith, Convention Centres of Canada
Gabrielle Spanton, SITE Canada
Jennifer Spear, Canadian Association of Professional Speakers
Debbie Van Der Beek, Ignite
TBA, Canadian Association of Exposition Managers