Not too big, not too small – Waterloo enjoys its sweet-spot reputation for conference convenience
by Doug Wallace, Ignite magazine | December 2023
“What you get here are big-city amenities with that smaller-town vibe.” Jennifer Eddings, Director of Business Development for Explore Waterloo Region, simply sums up how the “Goldilocks” mid-size environment of Waterloo Region is perfect for events and conferences. The area is so easily accessible from Toronto Pearson International Airport, yet doesn’t overwhelm as big cities often do.
“One of the things that really sets us apart is that we are a smaller destination,” Eddings says. “This works to an event organizer’s advantage, because we are so closely knit. Our sweet spot for a conference is under a one-hotel umbrella — up to 500 attendees. Plus, you’ll get a lot more attention in the Waterloo Region than you might in a larger destination.”
A smaller stage definitely means that local businesses and retailers know when a new group is in town. They’re excited about it and appreciative of the investment planners make in their community. “I think the size of Waterloo Region aligns with the size of the mid-size client itself — not every event is hundreds of people,” says Bettyanne Sherrer, Vice-President and Managing Partner of CanPlan Event and Conference Services. She was Chair of the Canadian Society of Professional Event Planners (CanSPEP) annual conference held in Waterloo Region in 2021. “You may just be planning a board meeting or gathering a regional group or chapter together. But whoever you are, you drive revenue into the local businesses and can make a big, positive impact.”
Find a variety of great spaces
Event planners have a range of state-of-the-art venues and hotels to choose from in Waterloo Region. Bingemans Conference Centre plays host to everything from trade shows to meetings, while Delta Hotels Waterloo delivers a classic conference roll-out.
“Waterloo Region has the standard convention hotels, but also interesting little boutique gems like The Walper Hotel, depending on the experience that you want to deliver,” Sherrer says. For heritage heft, Langdon Hall Country House Hotel & Spa and the reimagined 19th-century industrial space at Tapestry Hall really get an event planner’s creative juices flowing. “The Tapestry Hall is so unique and interesting, whether you’re doing a corporate meeting or an evening social event.”
Enjoy urban and rural culture combined
Add a comfortable and eclectic mix of things to do, and you’ve got a meeting that is the opposite of boardroom boredom. Being such an innovative tech hub, Waterloo Region is bursting at the seams with creative cultural recreation. On the other side of this scale, renowned St. Jacobs harkens back to the old days, its Farmers’ Market showcasing hundreds of vendors — including members of the community’s Old Order Mennonites — selling fresh produce, meats, baked goods, handcrafted items and other goodies. The Waterloo environment might even make attendees stay a little longer. “There are really interesting little villages pocketed around the region that guests can explore, with pre- and post-event stays an enticing add-on,” Sherrer says.
Sustainability is a top priority
Locally sourced food choices, lower carbon footprints, carpooling, event set-up — Waterloo Region is one of the best examples of sustainable event planning in the country, according to Sherrer. Plus, the farm-to-table practices and organic resources lend events even more of a sustainable element to the big picture. “There’s so much going on in the region when it comes to sustainability, including how restaurants and caterers are sourcing and delivering food. Waterloo also has such a great restaurant scene,” she says. Just one more reason to dig in.
Personalize Your Group Experience
Contact Jennifer Eddings to learn more about hosting your planet-friendly business event in Waterloo Region.