When 420 delegates from the Appraisal Institute of Canada (AIC) deplaned at Charlottetown Airport in PEI, an appetizing aroma wafted their way. Could it be chocolate chip cookies? Home-baked? For us? You're kidding!
No kidding. "We were welcomed in a way we've never been welcomed anywhere else in Canada," says Joanne Charlebois, director, communications. "For 48 hours before our annual May conference, every plane was met at the airport by greeters offering warm cookies.
"Within a 10-block radius of our hotel, lamppost signs welcomed us. Delegates received discount cards for stores that also displayed welcome signs. Our members were charmed. They knew that Charlottetown really appreciated us being there."
The welcome is part of PEI Convention Partnership's Big Fish in a Small Pond convention ambassador program, says CEO Kim Green. "It's free to conventions with over 400 delegates."
|Inn at St. Peters|
|Photo © Barb & Ron Kroll|
The partnership, which formed in March 2006 as a merger between the Capital Commission of Prince Edward Island and Meetings Prince Edward Island, has a new mandate. "We want to make PEI the number one seaside meeting destination," says Green.
"Our new brand is Seaside Social and our new website lists pre-packaged events that meeting planners can buy. This is what makes PEI unique. You won't see us advertising our great hotels or meeting space. Instead, you'll see our great experiences."
The Canadian Society of Association Executives (CSAE) experienced a Prince Edward Island kitchen party. "Our closing event at the Delta Prince Edward was great fun, with fiddlers, a comedian and a band," says president of Toronto-based ASSET, Rita Plaskett.
|Lobster appetizer at Dalvay-by-the-Sea|
|Photo © Barb & Ron Kroll|
"They paraded in lobsters for dinner and served them family-style on gingham tablecloths. Our 450 members had a fabulous time!"
Jo-Ann Thomsen, director of MC&IT sales, PEI Convention Partnership, says one incentive group's trip coincided with the Legends of Golf at Dundarave Golf Course at The Rodd Brudenell River Resort. This four-star resort boasts two 18-hole courses and a nine-hole executive course only thirty minutes from Charlottetown.
The avid golfers watched Jack Nicklaus and Tom Watson play head-to-head, following them around the course. Some participants even had their hats signed for unique souvenirs.
PEI golf courses, golf schools and golf resorts
The group of 90 took over the five-star Rodd Crowbush Golf & Beach Resort. Located 25 minutes from Charlottetown, it hosted the Legends of Golf in 2007 at its Links at Crowbush Cove course.
"The food at Rodd Crowbush was phenomenal and their service impeccable," says the organizer. "We asked them to roast a pig for us and they did. We also held a tented lobster surf n' turf on the beach at sunset."
The lobster bake (Over the Coals & Under the Moon) is one of Rodd Hotel & Resorts' Indelible Events for PEI meetings and conventions. Others include a Fire in the Kitchen party and Rail Ties, a simulated train ride through Charlottetown.
"PEI's reputation for world-class golf enticed more members to stay pre- and post-conference," says Charlebois. There are more than 25 courses on the island. In July 2006, the Canadian Golf Academy opened a golf school and clinic facility at Fox Meadow Golf & Country Club. The Delta Prince Edward offers free five-minute shuttle services to the club.
AIC stayed at the 211-room Delta Prince Edward. "It was a pleasure dealing with them," says Charlebois. "They gave us a complimentary themed banquet room and suggested a potato bar. Can you imagine - mashed potatoes scooped into wine glasses? Delegates made their own potato sundaes, topped with bacon bits, salsa, sour cream and other condiments. Some people went back four times!"
|Links at Crowbush Cove, Rodd Crowbush Golf and Beach Resort|
|Photo © Barb & Ron Kroll|
Bagpipers, celtic dancers and Anne of Green Gables
"Everything is less than 10 minutes away," notes Charlebois. "The College of Piping and Celtic Performing Arts arranged a performance on-site, a four-minute walk away. Thirty AIC members walked to the Culinary Institute of Canada for a tour, chef demonstration and lunch in the Lucy Maud Dining Room."
Plaskett agrees. "CSAE absolutely loved Charlottetown's intimacy. They walked everywhere. The Fathers and Ladies of Confederation, in 1864 period costume, escorted delegates to the Confederation Centre of the Arts, where they watched a half-hour vignette of Anne of Green Gables."
A welcome reception, with jazz music and food stations followed, in the art gallery attached to the 1,100-seat theatre. "The Confederation Players also walked our group to Founders' Hall [Canada's Birthplace Pavilion], where we had a tent, food stations and music."
Fathers of Confederation met at Province House
For an off-site venue, Green suggests Province House, a National Historic Site, within walking distance. "A group of 100 attended a reception in the chambers where the Fathers of Confederation met in 1864. We dressed their key people in top hats and period costumes."
The biggest challenge, according to Green, is the lack of convention centre space under one roof in Charlottetown. "We have to convince large groups to stay at multiple hotels and to spread out their meeting space."
CSAE, according to Plaskett, didn't have enough meeting space at the Delta. "But that wasn't a deterrent. We transferred our group to the Charlottetown Civic Centre for our keynote speaker and exhibits, which lent itself to a successful meeting with a captive audience."