Tourism is a growing industry in Edmonton, and like any other sector, it does not exist in a bubble. Having more international guests in our city is having an impact on how Edmonton handles events, conferences, and those always in-demand catering menus.
“Tourism is a billion dollar industry and has significantly increased in the last five years,” confirms Renee Williams, director international market development, Edmonton Tourism. “Thousands of Albertans are employed in the tourism sector and the destinations within the province host millions of visitors from regional and international markets each year. In the last five years, Edmonton has seen an increase in direct international air access, as well as domestic and US air access thanks to the great work of our partners at Edmonton International Airport. With an increase in air access to our gateway destination, visitors will stay longer and spend more in our destination.”
There is plenty to attract international visitors to Edmonton. “From our many vibrant festivals, to major sporting events plus attractions and experiences, a visitor can explore Edmonton with an itinerary curated for their specific wants and needs,” Williams adds. “Our city has much to do, from outdoor adventure and wilderness, to shopping, culinary, arts and culture. It is awesome to be able to sell a destination with so many extraordinary offerings!”
The city also functions as a starting point for tourists to explore other destinations in Alberta. Williams explains, “Edmonton is a gateway destination to the northern Rockies and northern Canada. We work closely with Tourism Jasper in international markets to showcase the offerings of the two destinations. We have built strong relationships with international tour operators, airlines, and media, and we work with those partners to curate and market the kinds of experiences their clientele wants to have in our destination. Edmonton is the only urban centre in the province flanked by two national parks on the east and west sides. The opportunity to see and experience wildlife and outdoor adventure are key selling features for us in our international markets.”
Edmonton’s tourism sector has had a positive effect for international event planners. Williams points out that the Capital City’s welcoming atmosphere and the way our festival community and hospitality sectors come together to showcase the destination around a major event makes our city an attractive location for personal and corporate events. The ability to back end a conference or wedding with K-Days or the Edmonton International Street Performers Festival, for example, boosts action in the hospitality sector as well as draws guests from all over the world to our doors; and when the world is at your doorstep, it’s important to cater to the diversity, while also showing off the city with pride.
Prairie Catering subscribes to this notion by offering a menu that includes everything from Alberta beef to Greek donairs.
“Edmonton, like most of Canada, is rich and diverse in culture. Not only do our corporate clients demand quality, they want to be able to feed their diverse teams and clients. We are a company that believes in supporting that,” points out Jimmy Shewchuk. In addition to running Prairie Catering, Shewchuk has been a consultant, concept-developer, owner/operator and serial entrepreneur in the hospitality, restaurant, club and catering business. For Shewchuk and his team, local and international concepts are an exciting part of the job.
“We are always looking to improve our offerings,” he notes. “That comes from two real sources. First, we take inspiration from great restaurants, local and abroad, and shape them into our own items that are catering friendly. More importantly, some of our best items come from tried and true family recipes. Nothing beats that!”
Edmonton Convention Centre (ECC), formerly Shaw Conference Center, has been embracing the city’s diversity for many years, hosting locals and internationals for a wide variety of events; and of course, making sumptuous menus inspired by cuisines from around the world.
“We are a gathering place to trade and celebrate in the heart of Edmonton at one of the city’s most historic sites. Over the years we have seen every type of event imaginable come through our venue with consistent cultural events. Our team welcomes opportunities to celebrate and customize events–no matter the size or scope,” smiles Richard Wong, general manager. “The Edmonton Convention Centre is proud to support the Edmonton community as a gathering place to celebrate, trade and innovate. Our people have been our key differentiator for more than 35 years. Our team is empowered to redefine service excellence and create relationships with our guests.”
The ECC menus are constantly under development to support this goal of service and relationship excellence.
Wong explains, “We deliver a remarkable dining experience for every budget, appetite and event. Executive chef Serge Belair and executive pastry chef Jason Wang lead our team of world-class culinary artists featuring 11 Red Seal chefs. Internationally experienced, our team proudly creates every dish in-house using 60 per cent locally sourced ingredients from community growers.
“In 2015, we launched our first East Indian menu inspired by the diversity of events held at the venue. We have positioned ourselves as a destination for our region’s East Indian community to celebrate and provide an incredible menu that can serve this diverse group. Items from our East Indian menus remain some of our most popular dishes. We are proud that our team of internationally experienced chefs are able to create an authentic menu that provides our guests with an exceptional culinary experience.”
ECC looks forward to remaining a top venue for events from around the world.
“Recognized as one of North America’s top five performing venues, we are committed to providing remarkable experiences for our guests. We work in collaboration with Edmonton Tourism to showcase the Edmonton experience to international meetings and conventions. We are passionate Edmontonians and we are committed to enhancing the delegate experience as Edmonton’s centre of connection. We are a gateway between the city’s downtown core and North America’s largest urban parkland,” Wong concludes. “Hosting an event in Edmonton’s river valley, guests enter the largest event space in downtown Edmonton, steps away from the city’s best hotels and restaurants. We offer event planners customized services and event space spaces to fit any occasion with 150,000 square-feet spread over three levels. Our culinary expertise offers guests an authentic farm-to-table experience featuring the best local products from Edmonton’s culinary industry. Committed to sustainable event operations, our facility was the first convention centre in Canada to receive Green Key Level 5 certification, and we are one of only five venues in Canada to receive the prestigious ASTM International certification.”
Edmonton had the means, motive and opportunity to be the diverse and welcoming city it is known for, one that attracts international guests and can accommodate weddings, conferences, events and shows from many different cultures. With venues and caterers actively evolving to meet diversifying needs and wants, the Capital City continues to be a top destination for locals, and for residents and guests from abroad.