Organizations that incorporate sustainability as part of their conference or tradeshow programs may embrace Richmond, British Columbia’s regular reminders to live green, not just in its meetings and events industry but in its overall society.
This Canadian city is actively living the sustainability revolution through its promotion of recycling, biking, green venues, gardening and food growing. Instead of a single trash can on a street, Richmond features three-slot bins in which paper, plastic and trash can be sorted. Signs promote its Adopt-a-Park program, which helps to keep parks clean, and its Adopt-a-Garden program, which highlight community gardens and growing fresh food.
A promoter of understanding the food cycle, gardening and food growing – Ian Lai looks after Terra Nova Rural Park, a 65-acre farm where events of up to 3,000 people can be held. For corporate team building, Lai hosts cooking competitions where guests can run to the field to pick newly grown produce to a make a dish. He also serves fresh honey and mead by harvesting bees’ honey.
“This is my lab. I have things fermenting and growing. It’s using things from nature,” explained Lai, urban agriculture consultant, Terra Nova Rural Park.
As it treats visitors to a sustainable way of life, Richmond is reinventing the airport city concept through its variety of meeting venues in a multicultural atmosphere.
Upon touching down at the Vancouver International Airport, delegates immediately find themselves on Sea Island in Richmond; here they’re immersed in a 65 percent Asian population, the highest in Canada, with more than 400 authentic Asian restaurants to match, including the 200 or so located on Alexandra Rd. – also known as “Food Street.”
An alternative to venturing 25 minutes away to host a meeting in downtown Vancouver or planning social activities in Victoria or Whistler – visitors can hop in Prius taxis, ride a complimentary shuttle or take the Canada Line, an above and below ground train built before the 2010 Winter Olympics, to the airport city’s 24 affordable accommodations and discover venues and attractions.
“For those coming to Vancouver, they could stay in nearby Richmond and feel like they’re at home,” said Ryan Soderberg, director of sales and marketing, Sheraton Vancouver Airport Hotel.
In the heart of the city lies the Sheraton, home to the largest meeting space in Richmond at 21,000 square feet along with 23 meeting rooms. Its 7,900 square-feet Grand Minoru Ballroom has hosted major events, such as the mayor’s dinner, sports teams and associations, and it can accommodate up to 1,000. A quiet, outdoor courtyard is also used for meetings and events.
Due to Sheraton’s friendly competition and collaboration with two neighboring airport hotels, Hilton and Marriott, visitors can utilize 31,000 square feet of combined meeting space.
“We work together when needed. The Marriott targets corporate and business travelers,” Soderberg explained. “We target meetings guests,” which is a market the Hilton also goes after.
Completed in 2009, an $18 million renovation of the hotel included converting its former nightclub into a meeting space and reducing various restaurants into one that was named after a long-time customer. Awaiting city approval, Sheraton officials hope to reduce the size of their onsite liquor store to create a new 10,000 square-feet meeting space.
As part of the hotel’s make a green choice program, guests can turn down housekeeping services during their stay to conserve resources as well as receive a CAN$5 voucher to use on the property. Compact fluorescent, low-wattage lighting was also added to the property, and leftover food is composted to reduce waste.
Regularly accommodating wheelchair basketball or rugby players in its 390-room hotel, Sheraton works with the nearby Richmond Olympic Oval, which hosts various sports tournaments.
During the 2010 Winter Olympics, the Oval hosted 12 events, and 8,000 spectators saw 36 medals handed out. Now operating with a 23,000 square-feet fitness center and a 160,000 square-feet activity zone consisting of two ice rinks, six hardwood courts, a 40-foot rock climbing wall and more, the facility also has room to spare for meetings and events.
“You can do meetings plus an activity,” said Aran Kay, program manager of marketing and communication, Richmond Olympic Oval.
On 48,000 square feet of space called the Track Zone is where tradeshows are hosted. With 85-foot tall ceilings inside the Oval, a curtain partition about 35-foot tall from the floor up can divide the Track Zone into spaces ranging from 8,000 to 30,000 square feet.
“We hold four or five large-scale tradeshows a year. We also have eight or 10 small ones a year,” explained Pam Lacroix, event coordinator, Richmond Olympic Oval.
From July 24-26, the Oval hosted the BCSRA Summer 2013 tradeshow for the British Columbia Sports Rep Association, which unifies agents and representatives in the general sporting goods industry throughout the province.
While the venue’s largest meeting room is 13,379 square feet, the Oval’s outdoor concrete plaza is about 25,000 square feet. With benches that can seat up to 250 people and views of the adjacent Fraser River, the outdoor space can hold 3,000 to 5,000. Indoor meeting rooms feature audio/visual built-ins and floor-to-ceiling windows along with black out blinds. Onsite catering is also provided.
As a LEED certified silver facility, the Oval captures water from its roof, which gets diverted to its onsite pond or is used to flush toilets. Ice from its hockey rink heats the building during the cold season.
With its Delta Greens program, the 414-room Delta Vancouver Airport is also taking sustainability seriously through hotel renovations and by replacing its lighting, plumbing and other fixtures with energy-efficient products.
To continue its mission to lend itself to business travelers, Delta features a 16,500 square-feet meeting space along with 22 function rooms to accommodate from two to 600 people. Each meeting room provides natural light and allows views of the surrounding Fraser River and Delta’s onsite 138-slip marina.
“Every other hotel has an enclosed ballroom, and you don’t know what’s going on,” said Donald Pinkney, director of sales and marketing, Delta Vancouver Airport.
To further stand out, Delta is launching a 40-passenger dinner cruise boat for meetings guests by May 1, 2014. The food will come from the hotel’s onsite restaurant, Pier 73.
“Everyone could have a conference with a banquet hall, but for us, it was about how to make it different,” said James Addington, general manager, Pier 73.
Richmond also provides other venues for meetings and events. The Gulf of Georgia Cannery National Historic Site, a museum commemorating the Canadian fishing industry, can be rented after hours, and it holds 500 for standup receptions. Aberdeen Centre, a western-style Asian shopping mall, has a 5,000 square-feet space for private events, which was used by speed skaters during the Olympics. The 396-room River Rock Casino Resort can host 600 people for meetings when using its theater room and meeting space for an estimated 20,000 square feet.