Q&A with Karen Dowhan, Tourism London
The future looks promising for London’s meeting and events (M&E) scene. Thanks to new developments and a wealth of event amenities, the southwestern Ontario city has become a go-to events destination and is poised to grow even more in the days ahead.
With insights into London’s evolving M&E scene, we spoke with Karen Dowhan, Director of Conventions with Tourism London.
When do you believe London started becoming a meetings and events hotspot?
London has always had great hotel venues to host meetings and events. In 1993 though, we opened the doors to the RBC Place London (formerly the London Convention Centre), which quickly became the premier meeting destination in the downtown business and entertainment district. It’s thanks to RBC Place London, existing venues like Delta Hotels by Marriott London Armouries, and a rich business community that London has become a true competitor for hosting business events and conventions.
How has London’s meeting and events scene evolved since?
London’s meetings and conventions scene has grown over time thanks in large part to our venues and hotels which have continued to invest in renovations and upgrades to ensure their properties are not only attractive but also up to date with latest technological advancements.
The city’s meetings and conventions scene is always growing. Most recently, the Hard Rock Hotel chain announced they will be opening their very first Canadian hotel in London in late 2022, further demonstrating London is an attractive destination for investment.
What kind of events have you hosted in London?
What’s great about London is the diverse range of events it attracts. Not only have we been a popular destination for medical association conferences and city-wide municipal conferences, like the Association of Municipalities of Ontario, but our Western University campus has hosted thousands of delegates for the Federation for the Humanities and Social Sciences convention and provided an athlete’s village atmosphere for the Ontario Summer Games event. On top of this, we’ve hosted a number of high-profile events like the JUNO Awards, Canadian Country Music Awards and Country Music Week, the World Figure Skating Championships and the Tim Hortons Brier.
What do you think attracts groups to London?
It’s not just one single thing that brings groups to London, but a combination of many aspects. Hosting an event in London is often a no-brainer for associations who are looking for flexibility and affordability as our hotel and meeting space rates are frequently less than some of our larger city competitors. Location is also key. Located in southwestern Ontario, London is a convenient choice for groups that have delegates coming from the Greater Toronto Area since we are a short two-hour drive while also offering an international airport as well as a VIA Rail train station (located right in the downtown core).
Another important reason why groups choose London for their event is the high level of service they will receive from Tourism London and their partners. In London, your event matters, and we want to ensure you have an amazing experience from start to finish; beginning at the RFP process, and all the way through to the event date, we want groups to have a positive and memorable event in the city.
How is London’s M&E community responding to pandemic challenges?
There is no denying that the tourism and hospitality sector has been one of the hardest-hit areas of the pandemic and will be one of the last to fully recover. London’s business event venues have been busy enhancing their health and safety protocols so that they will be ready when in-person, or hybrid events can safely resume. Our M&E community has also been participating in promotions and events like the online Revive Live Music event series and the “Stay a Little Longer” hotel campaign.
In addition, RBC Place London together with Encore set up a presentation stage for professional hybrid events. They also partnered with the London Food Bank to help make meals for London’s homeless. Not only has this been a great partnership, but also an inspiring effort to help our community in a time of need.
What’s next for London?
London is ready and excited to welcome meetings and conventions back to the city when it is safe to do so. We want planners to feel comfortable and confident to return to the Forest City. Meeting and event planners can expect venues to provide a clear outline of all health and safety protocols as well as have multiple options for hybrid events. We are flexible and will work collaboratively with meeting planners when negotiating contracts. One thing that won’t change, however, is the dedication of Tourism London and our incredible partners to providing amazing events and top-notch customer service.
We can’t wait to see you when it is safe to meet again.
London offers the right mix of event spaces and experiences to entertain and enrich a conference program. Get in touch with our experts at Tourism London today at www.londontourism.ca.