“Halifax is thriving again”

“Halifax is thriving again”

< Back to Articles | Topics: Cover story | Contributors: Emily Bednarz | Published: October 4, 2022

Cover Image Credit: Meghan Tansey Whitton

It’s hard to overstate the impact of live events in Halifax. “Live events are critical to the recovery of the tourism industry and our local economy,” says Ross Jefferson, President and Chief Executive Officer at Discover Halifax. “In an average year, visitors to the Halifax Region spend approximately $1.3B on a variety of services, from accommodations and restaurants to transportation, retail, and entertainment. Over 4,000 businesses and over 34,000 jobs in HRM are tied to these industries directly.”

At the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, the rate at which visitors came to Halifax was down 85% from pre-covid levels. “We are delighted to report that we are now fully returned and surpassed these pre-pandemic numbers,” says Jefferson.

Events East manages and operates the Scotiabank Centre and the Halifax Convention Centre on behalf of the city and province, and they’re in the middle of one of their busiest seasons yet. Suzanne Fougere, Executive Vice-President at Events East, spoke with Business Voice about the impact of live events and how the Events East team is creating connections, supporting local, and showcasing our city and province on the global stage.

Image Credit: Atlantic Livestream

“A city in a province unlike any other”

Events East is on a mission to connect the world to Nova Scotia through welcoming, timely, and immersive events. “Our focus is about attracting and hosting great events that showcase the best that Halifax and Nova Scotia have to offer,” says Fougere. “This is a growing and thriving province and city, and events play a key role in driving economic and community vibrancy that benefit our businesses, our communities, and the people who live here.”

Tapping into that vibrancy means making connections in the neighbourhood and beyond. “All of the things that surround our venues are part of what makes an event in Halifax so special,” says Fougere. “To leverage the true power of an event, it’s important that we showcase the culture of Nova Scotia to visiting delegates and give them the opportunity to experience what's beyond our walls. It leverages the strength of what Halifax and Nova Scotia have to offer, which is a city in a province unlike any other.”

To offer authentic Nova Scotia experiences, Events East partners with organizations like the Airport Authority, Discover Halifax, and local Business Improvement Districts. “We have created partnerships with organizations who play a role in showcasing Nova Scotia,” says Fougere. “We're looking at how we can expand the footprint of our impact to make sure that when people come here, there's no way to escape it: you're in Nova Scotia, you're going to see it, you're going to feel it, and you're going to taste it.”

Image Credit: James Ingram

Charting impact “beyond our walls”

In Events East’s 2022-2023 Business Plan, President and CEO Carrie Cussons says, “With the full return of events, we will focus on ensuring the impact of our business extends beyond our walls and into the community that we serve.”

How does the impact move beyond the walls of the venues? “First, we play a critical role as a participant in the hospitality and tourism sector of this province,” says Fougere. “Many of our partners had a very challenging couple of years — restaurants and small businesses were directly impacted by the pandemic. The most immediate impact that we've seen coming from the spring and into the summer is the power of live events and the vibrancy that drives back into a community.”

The impact is most immediately seen in the areas surrounding of the Convention Centre and Scotiabank Centre, according to Fougere. “We're coming off the busiest convention season that we've had since we opened the doors to the Convention Centre,” she says. “I think you could see it everywhere. You couldn't turn a corner without seeing delegates at our restaurants, visiting our shops, and driving traffic back onto main streets — a key part of helping the economy and communities recover.”

Jefferson adds that other types of businesses feel the impact. “While we think of the obvious benefactors of tourism being hotels, restaurants, and tour operators, the majority of visitors’ spending happens in less obvious businesses, from dry-cleaning to drug stores, convenience stores, and general retail,” he says. “A lesser-known fact: one in 27 people who stay in HRM overnight are temporary visitors, which means the region hosts 5.3 million overnight visitors who need meals, accommodations, coffee, sunscreen, and more.”

Halifax drives “social energy” in the province, according to Jefferson. “To experience social or cultural events, Atlantic Canadians in rural communities need to travel, whether to their nearest city or town for an evening or overnight,” he says. “Halifax has a significant portion of the market share of this group, and over 67% of our leisure visitors are coming from Atlantic Canada. Events, culture, and animations in the community are critical to the market strength we retain.”

In addition to business, Events East boosts sectors that are relevant to the city and province. “When we're thinking about attracting national and international events, we try to focus on key sectors of advantage for Nova Scotia,” says Fougere. “Events in sectors like life sciences and oceans reflect the policy focus and research strengths of this region. This year alone, we will host ten national and international medical conferences and six ocean tech aquaculture events.”

Chris Bourque, Executive Director of the Ocean Technology Council of Nova Scotia, speaks on the benefits of hosting the H2O Conference and Exhibition in Halifax. “Our industry is very much relationship and technology forward, so there is a great benefit in supporting connections in-person as well as being able to showcase technology and equipment,” he says. “Halifax is a hot spot for Ocean Technology with access to the ocean and world class local facilities.”

Finally, Events East supports events tied to the local community. “We play an important role as a backdrop for important community conversations,” says Fougere. “While we focus on attracting national and international conventions, it's equally important to us that we're supporting homegrown organizations that rely on event activity to drive fundraising streams, important conversations, and celebrations in the community.”

Fougere cites events like the Halifax Chamber of Commerce’s Annual Fall and Spring Dinners. “Those are important milestones in the community calendar that create opportunities for people to gather, celebrate, and support nonprofit and fundraising initiatives that are key to keeping a vibrant community thriving,” she says.

Image Credit: Ryan Williams Photography

Supporting local through authentic Nova Scotia experiences

In their efforts to showcase authentic Nova Scotia experiences, Events East has launched the Local Program. “What we try to do through the Local Program is create opportunities that can help visitors learn to love Nova Scotia like a local,” says Fougere.

That love can come from culture, music, and culinary experiences. “We spend a lot of time making sure that when people are here, they're getting a true Nova Scotia culinary experience,” says Fougere. “We make sure the menu our in-house culinary team delivers showcases the best in Nova Scotia's culinary offerings. We work with over 70 local food and beverage suppliers, and we feature their products on our menu — that can be everything from signature dishes to the real, simple ingredients that go into making every dish.”

Delegates can also have an authentic Nova Scotia experience through their pop-up program, which is hosted in partnership with Taste of Nova Scotia and Craft Nova Scotia. “We invite those organizations and their purveyors and members to come directly inside the Convention Centre and we operate pop-up shops during conventions,” says Fougere. “So, if you don't have time to travel the entire province, you can still get a taste of everything.” At the National Black Canadians Summit in July 2022, the Events East team helped to organize a successful pop-up program showcasing local Black-owned businesses.

The National Black Canadians Summit was first established in 2017 by the Michaëlle Jean Foundation. “The African Nova Scotian experience was the beating heart of our event,” says Tara Lapointe, Executive Director of the Michaëlle Jean Foundation. “The city of Halifax warmly welcomed the delegates, and many participants spoke to the deep emotional connection they now have with Halifax, having learned firsthand about significant Black Canadians at the Black Cultural Centre and having visited the Africville museum. I’m sure many will plan return visits, bringing their families in the future.”

Image Credit: National Black Canadians Summit

"The most diverse mix of events we’ve seen.”

What events are on the horizon for Events East? A strong mix of corporate, sports events, entertainment, and community events. “It's probably the most diverse mix of events that we've seen in years,” says Fougere.

This year, the Convention Centre will host over 120 events, including 30 national and international events, with a total of 80,000 delegates. Be sure to reserve your tickets for the Chamber’s upcoming Fall Dinner, along with The Laing House Masquerade Ball, Phoenix Youth Holiday Luncheon, and the 2023 Most Inspiring Immigrants in Atlantic Canada.

The Scotiabank Centre will host 500,000 attendees over 100 events. In addition to performers like Sting, Bryan Adams, and Michael Bublé, the Scotiabank Centre will host sporting events with the Halifax Mooseheads, Halifax Thunderbirds, and the 2023 World Junior Hockey Championship. “That is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to host an event like that, which will attract sold out audiences and will be televised around the world,” says Fougere.

Fougere reflects on what the return to live events has meant to the Events East team. “It's a strong reaffirmation that people want to be here and that Nova Scotia has something special to offer,” she says. “Our focus now is to continue driving that momentum of event activity into the downtown core and to ensure that those we work with are feeling the full benefit of what it means to have live events back — back, and back strong.”

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< Back to Articles | Topics: Cover story

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