Focusing on the future

Focusing on the future

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Sara Ericsson

Carrie Cussons knows she’s not alone in thinking times have been tough in 2020. She is the President and CEO of Events East Group, the team that manages and operates the Halifax Convention Centre. It was a booming few years for events in Halifax, an industry that in a normal year totals $115 million and more than 1,000 jobs.

It’s apparent this industry, next to small business owners, has been hit hardest by the new reality of COVID-19, for which procedures necessary to curb the pandemic’s spread meant any live event slated to run after mid-March was cancelled. Cussons says the year “hasn’t gone exactly to plan,” which is a sentiment shared by nearly all of Halifax’s business community. It’s been a year that no one could see coming, but one that has left no one untouched.

But there is some comfort to be found in that, as Cussons says, since Nova Scotians and the businesses they own and work for have shown remarkable adaptability in coping with the circumstances, as well as creativity in finding new ways to move forward in spite of the pandemic.

“We had a very busy calendar of events — particularly national and international ones — which, of course, has been impacted by COVID-19. … Our community and industry have been deeply impacted by COVID-19,” says Cussons. “But as Nova Scotians and as an industry, we’re strong and resilient. I know we’ll be back to hosting those events and visitors from away as soon as the time is right.”


Cussons says that despite the pandemic creating a “strange and challenging time” for business, she and her team have been taking the time to regroup and plan ahead as the world gradually begins to settle into this new normal. “We have tried to stay focused on the future. Our sales team has been hard at work securing events for 2021 and beyond and continuing to maintain strong relationships with our clients,” says Cussons.

The event operations team at Events East Group has established a number of new and enhanced health and safety protocols at the Halifax Convention Centre, which are based on public health guidelines and ensure the safety of staff and guests during events. And all of its meeting rooms are set up to enable physical distancing so events can continue within this new COVID-19 landscape.

Cussons says there are also several new health and safety protocols that have been put in place around the Halifax Convention Centre’s food and beverage offerings to ensure this can also be safely delivered. “We have a talented in-house food and beverage team who have full control over safe food preparation and handling and already have a rigorous food safety and cleaning plan in place. We’re looking at fun, creative ways to help people navigate our space using directional arrows, signage and, of course, our team, so that our guests can get to their meeting space safely and efficiently,” she says.

“We’re also working with event organizers to help them clearly communicate key information to their delegates prior to the event so we can ensure they’ve completed self-assessments and can do contact tracing if needed. And, of course, contact tracing and self-assessments for our staff and suppliers will be mandatory prior to coming in for a shift.”


The importance of getting people together for meetings is something that event industry members can’t overstate. It’s also something that people are reminding themselves of after months spent social distancing at work and spending free time within small family bubbles.

Since it’s something that venues like the Halifax Convention Centre and countless others have proven can still be done safely and securely through adherence to public health guidelines, it’s another box we can tick showing our new normal is beginning to look more like the old normal — albeit with face masks and hand sanitizer.

While social distancing is still in place, large events will slowly start picking back up and, with them, the local economy, which eventgoers, in turn, stimulate as they grab a bite to eat or visit small businesses. And that important role played by this industry couldn’t happen were it not for facilitators like the Halifax Convention Centre, which host the key events that draw people to this city, according to Cussons.

“We really believe our convention centre is a platform for driving research and innovation and making connections. Those connections extend to our local universities and research institutions, our businesses and our community overall,” she says. “We measure our success based on the economic and community impact we drive through the events we host, which is why we’re so focused on bringing a strong, diverse lineup of regional, national and international events to Halifax as the time is right.”

Events East Group President and CEO Carrie Cussons says that while the event industry has been the hardest hit by COVID-19 changes, she is confident it will gradually bounce back.

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