Sunday, April 6

Canada's West Marketplace comes of age

(Originally published in TOURISM)

The 20th Annual Canada’s West Marketplace (CWM) trade show took place in Whistler, BC, in late November. Each year, this marketplace brings together in one location British Columbia and Alberta tourism suppliers with tourism buyers from across the world. The event is the product of a unique collaboration between Alberta and British Columbia tourism industry stakeholders. TOURISM met with two key people who make it all happen to look at the journey thus far; Christine Jones is manager of marketplaces and special events at Tourism British Columbia and Cassandra Graves is director of marketing services at Travel Alberta:

Tourism BC's Christine Jones notes the special partnership CWM has allowed BC and Alberta to develop over the years: “Sometimes Cassandra and I have worked more closely together than we have with people in our own respective offices!” she quips. “The relationship, and the benefits that stem from it, extend to both BC and Alberta, and they are reflected in our in‑market initiatives also.”

“Our representatives work together in Japan, Korea, Germany and the UK,” Jones notes. “They work with tour operators to get them to come to Canada’s West Marketplace, and this year we have 36 new buyers who have never attended before. That is a huge opportunity for the industry to build those relationships and build tourism, knowing these new buyers may not be aware of the products here.”

When asked what advantages she sees in staging a marketplace that focuses exclusively on Alberta and BC products, Jones answers she believes there is added value for the tourism suppliers “because the buyers are there to meet with Alberta and British Columbia suppliers. It is very focused; we try to have the personal touch as much as possible, and we listen to what our delegates say – the changes they would like to see – and as a result we have been evolving every year.”

Jones is particularly pleased that the Canadian Tourism Commission makes a point of participating at CWM: “The CTC delegates, as well as Air Canada, Tourism BC and Travel Alberta staff, get to meet with both buyers and sellers. They find out what new products have emerged, and the sellers can look at developing itineraries for FAM tours with our DMO representatives.”

For her part, Travel Alberta’s Cassandra Graves points out how CWM provides an opportunity, especially for smaller operators who can’t make it overseas on an annual basis, to meet and conduct sales calls with these operators in a cost‑effective way. “It is really a one‑stop shop for them. We have over 150 buyers attending this year, so it is a fantastic opportunity for them to meet one‑on‑one with those buyers and get some business done.”

“There is a real intimacy to the show,” she goes on, “because the two provinces have sellers who have been attending the show during all its years of existence. They know the buyers very well. Christine and I have only been working on the show for the past seven years, but prior to 1999, the show actually alternated between Alberta and British Columbia. Buyers spent two days in one province, then they travelled to the next province and spent two days there. In 1999, in Victoria, we decided to begin to host it at one location and to alternate between Alberta and BC, and in 2003 we changed to a buyer‑seated format.”

Graves says her team reads every comment in the evaluation participants fill out “and we have a 99% satisfaction level, which is wonderful. When we implemented all the technology that we did in 2004, it was in response to delegate wishes. We were leading‑edge at that time, and I think in many areas we still are, from a technology aspect. People are very curious about the services we include; it means we are doing our job and that we are successful in maintaining the quality of the show.”

Needless to say Graves looks forward to CWM coming to Calgary in 2008. “We haven’t been there for some time, and we are very excited about hosting the show,” she concludes.
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