Di­a­monds in the Rough Patch

Think your cash-strapped com­pany can’t af­ford a glam­orous get­away? Think again

Alberta Venture - - Contents -

Think your cash-strapped com­pany can’t af­ford a glam­orous get­away? Think again

Late in 2015, as Christ­mas was on the hori­zon and this cruel re­ces­sion was be­gin­ning its on­slaught,

David Howard of the Event Group in Cal­gary told CBC that 90 per cent of his clients had can­celled their Christ­mas par­ties. En­max, the City of Cal­gar­y­owned power util­ity, fa­mously hired the leg­endary rock group Blue Rodeo for its 2006 Christ­mas party, but went pub­lic with the can­cel­la­tion of its 2015 party. (“Blue Rodeo” would have been a good way to de­scribe the mood in Cal­gary that year: Ev­ery­one was sad and felt like a horse had just kicked them.) En­max was trailed by com­pa­nies like Sun­cor and Cen­ovus, all try­ing to save money and avoid the pub­lic re­la­tions de­ba­cle that comes from lay­ing off em­ploy­ees and then host­ing a half-mil­lion-dol­lar hol­i­day bash.

“Ne­go­ti­ate with the venue’s con­fer­ence man­agers, keep your eyes out for cheap en­ter­tain­ment, and be will­ing to think out­side the box.”

Let’s face it:

the oil price crash, and its re­sul­tant two-and-ahalf-year down­turn, has hit ev­ery­one’s pock­et­books, and if some of the world’s most-prof­itable oil and gas com­pa­nies can’t af­ford to host a money-burn­ing bon­fire, chances are yours can’t ei­ther. There’s less money go­ing around to host con­fer­ences, con­ven­tions and events, and fewer peo­ple are at­tend­ing them.

But maybe you’ve al­ways wanted to plan an event at one of the prov­ince’s fan­ci­est venues and your dream just won’t pass. Fear not – there are ways to make do on a bud­get. Steve Dickey is a site man­ager with Data Com­mu­ni­ca­tions Man­age­ment, which op­er­ates a busi­ness cen­tre within one of Canada’s most re­mark­able venues: the Fair­mont Banff Springs. If fewer events are be­ing held at the Fair­mont, he hasn’t no­ticed. “If one com­pany doesn’t want to have a con­fer­ence here, an­other will step in,” he says. “We’re al­ways busy, all year long. Usu­ally we see re­peat con­ven­tions, be­cause they know that Fair­mont Banff Springs is a mecca for con­ven­tions.”

How can con­ven­tion plan­ners af­ford to pick such a pres­ti­gious venue? Dickey says there are lots of un­ex­pect­edly in­ex­pen­sive ac­tiv­i­ties that plan­ners can pick out, like snowshoeing, bik­ing and hik­ing. In fact, Banff’s main at­trac­tion – its nat­u­ral beauty – is en­tirely free. “If peo­ple want to come to Canada for a con­ven­tion, they want to come to the most beau­ti­ful place in Canada,” he says.

That’s one way to squeeze the most out of your bud­get, but Dickey says venues like the Fair­mont are sur­pris­ingly ac­com­mo­dat­ing, and the Fair­mont’s own con­fer­ence man­agers can work with peo­ple book­ing con­fer­ences to en­tice them into vis­it­ing Banff. It even works with lo­cal busi­nesses to of­fer pack­ages that let plan­ners save on group ac­tiv­i­ties. The Data Group, for ex­am­ple, of­fers print­ing ser­vices for brochures, books and hand­outs, which can sub­stan­tially re­duce the cost and labour of ship­ping.

“No one is com­pletely shel­tered from down­turns,” Dickey says, and it’s not ef­fort­less for gl­itzy venues like the Fair­mont to keep their busi­ness. In fact, Banff is a bit of an anom­aly, with its abun­dance of cheap fun, great restau­rants and good peo­ple, not to men­tion its rep­u­ta­tion as a pic­turesque moun­tain retreat. But the Fair­mont Banff Springs shows you that, with a bit of dig­ging around, you can cut costs in sub­stan­tial ways – per­haps enough to make your dream venue a vi­able can­di­date. Ne­go­ti­ate with the venue’s con­fer­ence man­agers, keep your eyes out for cheap en­ter­tain­ment, and be will­ing to think out­side the box. Re­mem­ber that in a down­turn, it might be dif­fi­cult to af­ford a great con­ven­tion, but the venues need clients more than ever. It might not be Blue Rodeo, but it could leave you in the black.

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