GMID 2021 Panel: How Will Business Events Reopen?

While we don’t know exactly when Canada will reopen its borders to international business visitors, there’s little doubt the events industry is eager to get back to work. Reopening rules differ from province to province. That’s why it’s important for meetings professionals to start sharing strategies, best practices and successes now so that the entire industry, from coast to coast, can hit the ground running as soon as restrictions are lifted.

How is the industry preparing for the return to face-to-face gatherings? It’s a question we’re tackling on April 8 during MMBC’s Global Meetings Industry Day (GMID) virtual event.

MMBC vice chair Laura Pallotta will moderate a panel that includes Joanne Burns Millar of the BC Meetings & Events Industry Working Group; CAEM’s Bianca Kennedy; and Caroline Lepage of Agora Opus3. They’ll provide the latest update on advocacy work and concrete actions taking place in British Columbia, Quebec and other regions of the country designed to get the industry back on track.


Laura Pallotta (moderator) is Vice Chair, MMBC, and Regional Vice President, Sales and Distribution, Marriott Hotels of Canada. Laura leads Marriott Canada’s revenue generation and sales strategy focus. With over 30 years of hospitality experience, Laura spent 12 years in rapidly progressive leadership positions at Delta Hotels and Resorts until Marriott’s acquisition of Delta in 2015. In 2017 Laura led the transformation of the Marriott sales organization in Canada, integrating Delta Hotels and Starwood Hotels with Marriott’s portfolio of hotels. Laura serves on industry advisory councils for Destination Canada and Ryerson University—Ted Rogers School of Hospitality, and is the Canadian representative on Marriott International’s Inclusion Council.

Joanne Burns Millar is Founder and CEO, Pacific Destination Services Inc. (PDS), a Vancouver-based event production and destination management company. Joanne has taken leadership roles on several issues that are critical to industry interests, including forming the BC Meetings & Events Industry Working Group to drive response and recovery efforts during the COVID-19 pandemic. She also sits on the board of Tourism Vancouver, is a member of Destination Canada’s Business Events Advisory Committee and participates in several industry organizations, including Association of Destination Management Executives International (ADMEI) and Society for Incentive Travel Excellence (SITE).

Bianca Kennedy is Show Manager for the Québec City and Montréal Motorcycle Shows, and is President, Board of Directors, for the Canadian Association of Exposition Management (CAEM), representing producers of trade and consumer shows, exhibition venues, as well as suppliers of products and services to the industry. Since the pandemic began, CAEM’s priority has been to raise its members’ voices with government and to advocate for the future of the exhibition industry. Bianca has led this work, both federally and provincially, with leadership support from CAEM’s Exposition Recovery Task Force and CAEM’s public affairs firm Crestview Strategy. This includes advocating and planning for the safe and responsible reopening of trade and consumer shows, as well as advocating for tailored support measures for the business events’ sector.

Caroline Lepage is executive vice-president of Agora Opus3, one of the major professional conference organizers in Montréal and Québec City. Recognized as a leader in her industry, Caroline is active in several organizations and boards, including Le Carnaval de Québec, MPI, SKAL International Québec, Québec City Tourism and Conférence Économique De L’industrie Touristique Québecoise. During the pandemic, Caroline has advocated on behalf of the industry, including recommendations as to how all levels of government can support businesses in the event industry.