Convention business on the rise in Penticton

Later this month, the Penticton's population will swell as water and wastewater professionals from around the province converge on the city.

Later this month, the Penticton’s population will swell by 1,400 as water and wastewater professionals from around the province converge on the city.

They’ll be here to attend the annual conference and trade show of the B.C. Water & Waste Association, being held at the Penticton Trade and Convention Centre from April 21 to 25.

“Our theme this year is ‘Exploring our Depths.’ There is so much more to the water and waste industry than what people see on the surface, whether it is a reservoir, a lake, the water coming out of a tap or an act of legislation,” said Daisy Foster, CEO of the 4,400 member association. “People don’t realize what goes on behind the scenes to get clean, safe water to our taps and then collect and treat our used water to have minimum impact on our environment. While in Penticton, we will also be talking about our public awareness campaign, Drinking Water Week, as well as the Community Water Challenge. We hope to educate the public about the processes and people behind our water, and the need to value it.”

This large conference is indicative of what is going on at the Penticton Trade and Convention Centre, according to Global Spectrum’s general manager, Dean Clarke. Bookings for the PTCC in coming years are rising, and even for 2012, there is a rise in the number of people coming.

“For 2012, it’s a little misleading. What is actually up is the number of delegates,” said Clarke. “It’s not necessarily the quantity but the quality of bookings that is up. We’re up about 10 per cent when it comes to heads in beds.”

“We are delighted to be holding our 40th Annual Conference and Trade Show in Penticton. Our delegates always enjoy this beautiful location,” said Foster. “We are expecting 1,400 delegates, who will share their knowledge and experience on a variety of topics as diverse as climate change, small water systems, and drinking water issues.”

The sales lead time for conventions and trade centre business can be anywhere from two to four years as associations book long in advance. The PTCC, according to Clarke, is now seeing the effects of aggressive sales work over the last few years from the convention centre’s sales manager, Paul O’Beirn, and his staff.

“We’re now starting to see that quality of conventions and, certainly in 2013 and 2014, the quality and the quantity are there,” said Clarke. “It is now time for Global spectrum to show its muster.

Clarke describes the previous few years as a “perfect storm,” starting in 2008 just as Global Spectrum took over management of the South Okanagan Events Centre and the convention centre. Competition was high, he said, with a number of meeting spaces opening in the Lower Mainland in the previous few years. Then the economy tanked and the groups that regularly booked places like the SOEC began cutting travel budgets and looking closer to home for convention facilities.

“The other thing that really affected us was software, like GoToMeeting or Skype. When the travel budget was cut, people really started to invest in this software,” said Clarke, adding that people are now getting back to face-to-face.

“What’s happened now, of course, is that people realize that business really doesn’t get done unless there is a handshake involved and you are face to face,” he said.

While convention centres and similar facilities are not expected to be profitable, Clarke said the PTCC is operating well.

“I’m really proud of where we’ve come in the last three years. No trade centres run at a break even point or are profitable,” said Clarke. “They are designed to be an economic driver and put heads in beds.”

The City of Penticton, along with many other municipalities and the Province of BC, will be proclaiming Drinking Water Week, May 13 – 19. For more information and to take the challenge, visit