Business tourism and events: an unexpected pairing

The organisation of events, such as company conventions and conferences, often leads to business travel. The cultural, historical, architectural and gastronomical features of a city, play an important part in deciding where to host a conference. The organizer of an event mustn’t neglect the opportunities that come from shedding light on the touristic opportunities in proximity to a convention center. Furthermore, convention centers and even municipalities are often in competition for business tourists, who tend to spend more than leisure travelers.

Business tourism is confronted with a paradox. On one hand, companies and organisations at times look for ways to reduce the costs of organizing an event. On the other hand, those who do travel for a business conference are looking to maximize their experience in an unknown city. Business tourism is also known as MICE: Meetings, Incentives, Conventions and Events.

As an industry that is growing in Quebec, business tourism has been carefully examined for a few years now. What has been found is that this sector could have a greatly beneficial impact on the economy of the province. Furthermore, an article published by the journal Les Affaires in September 2019, stated that amongst Montreal’s annual 11 million tourists, 14% of these are a product of business travel.

Even though Montreal remains a popular destination, Quebec City should also be equally considered. In fact, the city is anchored in history, a remarkable geographical location and an abundance of local food. In addition to Quebec City, the Quebec Association of Convention Professionals (QUACP) offers around thirty destinations in the Quebec province that are ideal for business events.

The importance of a personalized offer

Business events essentially cater to two clienteles: the corporate market of private companies and the associative market, which is often international.

Business tourists have different requirements than leisure travelers. For example, we know that tourists travelling for business will place more importance on the dates of their flights as opposed to the price. They also tend to prioritize flexibility in order to adapt to unexpected mishaps during their travels. In fact, by studying their preferences, an airline company could target offers that answer their priorities and improves their travel experience.

The organizer of an event could establish a partnership with their local tourism office and learn from the behavioral characteristics of their clients when travelling locally. For instance, an international nursing conference would not offer the same activities as a conference of mayors.

Furthermore, one of the challenges that event organizers face is to offer memorable activities, such as a cocktail party on a boat on the Saint Laurent or a day trip to see whales, all the while respecting a strict budget and event logistics limitations. Too often, international tourists don’t fully grasp the size of Quebec and even attempt to visit the whales in Tadoussac and the Niagara Falls in just one weekend (!!) Finally, some touristic activities, such as diners at cabanes à sucre can seem almost like a caricature of Quebec culture. In the end, evidently, the decision is taken by the client!

Local products and activities can, at times, be more accessible at some event locations, whether this be in the venue, or in the form of partnerships.

A final aspect which shouldn’t be neglected is safety. The event organizer will have to inform their client of the necessary safety measures to take during touristic activities. It’s not uncommon for business tourists to adventure themselves in neighborhoods which aren’t recommended. In certain cases, for larger events, local authorities should be advised.

In conclusion, the event organizer that wishes to charm its clients must include a touristic element to their propositions, as much for those accompanying participants, than the participants themselves. However, touristic offers must be adapted to the profile of the participants, which in turn requires in depth research and many exchanges. In certain cases, business tourists will expect eclectic activities, as they certainly don’t want to be categorized as tourists. This definitely proves to be an interesting challenge to take on!



For more details on the topic, we invite you to take a look at this interview for Le Devoir given by OPC Events Director, Isabelle Moïse.