Now more than ever is a great time for Vancouver meeting planning. Vancouver was chosen as the host city for the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games - with good reason. The demand for Vancouver event venues has consistently risen in the past decade, due to the city's unique attractions, beautiful landscape, magnificent cityscape and its spectacular convention centre.
The award-winning Vancouver Convention and Exhibition Centre features more than 150,000 square feet of exhibition, ballroom and meeting space, as well as 13,000 hotel rooms within walking distance. Its current expansion efforts will triple the size of the existing facility to more than 500,000 square feet of flexible function space by spring 2009. The centre received the Apex Award for "World's Best Convention Centre" in 2002 and was named a finalist in 2004. It has hosted such high-profile events as the World Buddhist Convention, World Culinary Arts Festival, 1993 Clinton-Yeltsin Summit and the XI International Conference on AIDS. Such high profile events have bolstered Vancouver event planning.
In preparation for the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games, multiple meeting-friendly developments are underway in Vancouver. Nearly 1,500 additional hotel rooms will be completed by 2009, increasing the total number of downtown Vancouver hotel rooms to nearly 15,000. Vancouver International Airport, Canada's 2nd busiest airport, is undergoing a $1 billion expansion and upgrade program, which will expand its International Terminal and Link Building between the Domestic Terminal and International Terminal.
Amidst the upcoming renovations, Vancouver has much to offer its visitors. Downtown Vancouver provides a spectacular view of the North Shore Mountains, the Pacific Ocean and Vancouver Harbour, and is not only safe and exciting, but also easily accessible. The city's excellent public transit system offers bus, rail and ferry services that extend to the greater Vancouver area. Thrill-seekers find an adventure on the Capilano Suspension Bridge, a walk able 450-foot-long bridge that sits 230 feet above the Capilano River, while nature enthusiasts will no doubt want to make a stop at Stanley Park, one of the world's largest public parks at 1,000 acres. The University of British Columbia's Museum of Anthropology is home to 535,000 ethnographic and archeological objects, and the family-friendly Science World features the world's largest domed movie screen.
Vancouver serves as the regional headquarters for several major corporations, including the Business Council of British Columbia, lumber powerhouses Canfor and West Fraser Timber, Cytvia Software, Inc., and HSBC Bank Canada. It is also home to Simon Fraser University, Dorset College and the University of British Columbia
Drivers' licenses from the United States and other countries are valid in British Columbia for up to six months, making some of the travel logistics in Vancouver meeting planning a bit easier to work with. To enter Canada, citizens or permanent residents of the United States must bring a U.S. birth certificate, U.S. passport or green card. Proof of residence, such as a driver's license, should also be carried, but is not acceptable as a proof of citizenship. All international visitors must bring a valid national passport and in some cases a visa.
Vancouver is located on the mainland of North America in the southwest corner of British Columbia. Covering 44 square miles, the city lies amongst scenic mountain ranges and beautiful waters. The downtown area is located on a peninsula surrounded by the Burrard Inlet, Strait of Georgia and Fraser River, and the cityscape is dominated by the North Shore Mountains. Located just 24 miles north of the Canadian-U.S. border, downtown Vancouver is Canada's 3rd largest city with a population of nearly 600,000 residents. Its location on the Pacific Rim and western end of Canada's transcontinental highway and rail route also makes Vancouver one of Canada's largest industrial centers.
The city of Vancouver was founded in 1886 with the arrival of Canada's first transcontinental train Canadian Pacific Railway. A total of 1,000 people lived in Vancouver in 1886, but by 1911, the population had skyrocketed to more than 100,000 people. At the arrival of so many residents, the culture of Vancouver flourished with the openings of private business clubs, opera houses and theaters, as well as the opening of the University of British Columbia in 1915. Vancouver's diverse geography and favorable exchange rate have made it a favorite filming destination since the 1930s. Modern-day Vancouver is known as "Hollywood North," as it has become the 3rd largest film production center in North America, following Los Angeles and New York City. Its film industry contributes almost $1 billion annually to the economy of British Columbia.
Vancouver is known for its sophisticated and metropolitan atmosphere, as well as its ethnic diversity built upon the hundreds of thousands of immigrants that arrived in Vancouver in the second half of the 19th century. Many immigrants came to Vancouver after the 1858 Fraser Canyon Gold Rush and to work on the railroad. As Canada's 2nd most ethnic city after Toronto, Vancouver is a true city of neighborhoods and home to such cultural areas as the Punjabi Market, Little Italy, Greektown, Japantown, Chinatown and Koreatown. In fact, more than half of Vancouver's school-age children have been raised speaking a language other than English. This diversity is reflected in the city's numerous restaurants offering delicious cuisine, from Southeast Asian at Azia to Middle Eastern, South Asian and Mediterranean at Sanafir.
The city's rich background can be seen in the various unique attractions such as historic Gastown and Chinatown, the 2nd largest Chinatown in North America. The Vancouver Maritime Museum, Vancouver Museum of Art and BC Sports Hall of Fame and Museum also provide guests with a look into Vancouver's rich past and present. Its picturesque location and agreeable climate make recreational activities such as the University of British Columbia Botanical Garden and Centre and whale watching tours popular choices for visitors, adding to an endless list of exciting activities in Vancouver.
All average costs based on U.S. Government Per Diem rates as published by the U.S. General Services Administration.
Vancouver enjoys mild weather year-round, as its peninsular location is warmed by Pacific Ocean currents and protected by mountain ranges. From June to September, temperatures are mild and the city has an average of 16 hours of sunlight per day.
Spring average temperatures hover around 16°C, while during the summer, from June to August, daytime temperatures average in the low 70s with nighttime temperatures in the 50s. Fall is mild, with average temperatures in the mid-50s to mid-60s. November is the start of the rainy season, which typically lasts through January, and brings about five to six inches of rain per month. Snow is rare during the winter, when temperatures average 7°C.
Vancouver Convention Centre
The sleek, modern Vancouver Convention Centre is British Columbia's flagship convention facility and the most prestigious of Vancouver meeting facilities. Located on the waterfront in downtown Vancouver, it is the recipient of numerous prestigious awards, including the Association of Congress Centre's (AIPC) award for World's Best Convention Centre, for which it is the first-ever repeat recipient.
Thanks to the completion of a facility expansion in 2009, the Vancouver Convention Centre encompasses 115,000 square meters of space, or four city blocks. The East Building has 8,500 square meters of exhibit space and 2,300 square meters of meeting space spread among 20 meeting rooms. Meanwhile, the new West Building has 20,700 square meters of exhibit space and 5,600 square meters of meeting space spread across 52 meeting rooms. A 60-meter-long, glass-enclosed connecting walkway links the two buildings, which together offer nearly 14,000 square meters of pre-function space.
Planners can also take their events outside of the boardroom or off the tradeshow floor thanks to 6,700 square meters of ballroom space. In fact, the Vancouver Convention Centre is home to Canada's largest convention center waterfront ballroom at 5,100 square meters. It also has outdoor terrace and plaza areas.
In addition to adding space, the West Building expansion is a masterpiece of green design. Constructed to meet Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Gold certification standards, it boasts unique features such as a marine habitat, seawater heating and cooling system, and advanced drainage and water recovery system. It also has a six-acre "living roof," the largest green roof in Canada, where over 400,000 indigenous plants and four beehives thrive.
Beyond its green building, the Vancouver Convention and Exhibition Centre has an award-winning environmental policy covering recycling, food and beverage management and energy conservation. It recycles nearly half of the total volume of waste generated and donates leftover food to local charities.
This Vancouver meeting facility's services and amenities are just far-reaching and convenient as its spaces. World-class catering crafted with local, fresh ingredients; a remarkably sophisticated fiber optic network, making all areas capable of high-speed Internet access; and global broadcasting, webcasting, video conferencing and real-time video transmission are all available. Also at the facility are an on-site warehouse of audio-visual inventory, full-service specialty lighting and rigging, specialized customs brokerage and goods transportation services, and expert security capabilities.
Situated only 20 miles from Vancouver International Airport, the Vancouver Convention Centre is within Vancouver's extensive public transportation network and walking distance of more than 13,000 hotel rooms. It has hosted such high-profile events as the World Buddhist Convention, World Culinary Arts Festival, 1993 Clinton-Yeltsin Summit and the XI International Conference on AIDS. The Vancouver Convention Centre will also serve as the broadcast and media center for the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games.
Vancouver International Airport (YVR)
Approximate taxi fare: $23-26 USD
Operating since 1931, the modern Vancouver International Airport is Canada's 2nd busiest airport, behind the Toronto Pearson International Airport. Serving more than 17 million passengers and approximately 300,000 take-offs and landings per year, Vancouver International was voted the top airport in North America by the International Air Transport Association in 2003. Located just eight miles south of Vancouver, the airport serves domestic and international flights throughout North America, Asia and Europe through one of its 90 boarding gates and three main terminals, including the Domestic Terminal, International Terminal and South Terminal, a regional hub for small aircraft. The airport serves as the hub for Air Canada and services a total of 87 airline carriers.
Vancouver International's $53 million upgrade of the Domestic Terminal building was completed in 2002. A 10-year, $1 billion expansion and renovation program is currently underway to accommodate the 21 million passengers projected to use the airport by 2010. Upgrades and renovations include an expanded International Terminal, a shuttle that will run among terminals, and a Link Building between the Domestic and International terminals, which will replace the temporary glass corridor "Link" that exists now.
Vancouver International offers extensive amenities and luxuries, including children's play areas throughout the airport, 22 Internet access payphones and wireless Internet. The airport has a vast selection of shops, bars, casual and fine dining and luggage and shoe repair, as well as a spa and health club. Guests will also enjoy the airport's well-lit, blue and green interior that houses an extensive Northwest coast native art collection. The airport connects to the four-diamond Fairmont Vancouver Hotel, which offers 392 luxurious guest rooms. Hourly, daily, valet and long-term parking is available near the Domestic and International terminals.
Airline carriers serving Vancouver International Airport
The Amtrak Cascades route runs from Eugene, Oregon, to the Pacific Central Station in downtown Vancouver with stops in Salem, Tacoma, Portland and Seattle. The 10-hour-and-25-minute-long trip takes passengers past Mount St. Helens and across the Columbia River Gorge. With multiple departures daily, the Amtrak Cascades fleet consists of 11 trains with both business class and reserved coach seating.
The Canadian route on VIA Rail travels from Vancouver to Toronto along the northern Ontario lakelands, Prairies and Canadian Rockies. The three-day journey includes stops in Winnipeg, Saskatoon, Edmonton, Jasper, Kamloops and Sudbury Junction. Canada's VIA Rail runs more than 480 trains per week, serving more than four million passengers per year, and was recently named among the top trains in the world by the Society of the International Railway Travelers. Multiple trains leave Vancouver on Friday, Sunday and Tuesday, and leave Toronto on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.
The modern, clean and safe TransLink public transportation system serves Vancouver with bus, rail (SkyTrain) and marine (SeaBus) transit routes. TransLink runs on a three-zone system, with the city of Vancouver as Zone 1, and services 165 million passengers per year. Passengers may purchase passes for one, two or three zones; all passes include travel on buses, SkyTrain and SeaBus. Both concession passes (for children ages 5-13, students ages 14-19 and seniors) and adult passes are available. Cash fares are C$2.50 for an adult pass and C$1.75 for a concession pass; a Faresaver book of 10 passes is C$19 for an adult pass and C$16 for a concession pass; and an unlimited day pass is C$9 for an adult pass and C$7 for a concession pass.
The city of Vancouver and greater Vancouver area enjoy an extensive and efficient bus system. In fact, over 85 percent of metropolitan Vancouver residents have convention bus services within fewer than one mile of their homes. The Coast Mountain Bus accounts for nearly 75 percent of all transit trips in the region and operates seven days a week for 18 to 20 hours per day; buses leave every four to 10 minutes. Additional buses within the transit network include express coach buses, community shuttles, emission-free trolley buses and the NightBus, which operates every 30 minutes from 1:30 to 4 AM nightly.
SkyTrain, the world's longest automated light rapid transit system, operates 33 stations and spans more than 30 miles. Emission-free and energy-efficient trains leave every two to eight minutes along the Expo and Millennium lines and link with buses and the SeaBus at the downtown Waterfront station. SkyTrain operates Monday through Friday from about 5 to 12:30 AM, Saturday from 6 to 12:30 AM and Sunday from 7 AM to 11:30 PM.
The SeaBus system consists of two double-ended catamaran ferries that hold up to 400 people. SeaBus operates on two terminals: the Waterfront Terminal, which connects with buses and SkyTrain, and the Lonsdale Quay Terminal, which connects North Vancouver and Metro Vancouver. The transit takes 12 minutes and runs Monday through Saturday from 6 to 1 AM and Sunday from 8 AM to 11PM.
Many major rental car companies can be found throughout Vancouver. Alamo, Avis, Budget, Dollar, Hertz, National and Thrifty rental car companies are represented at Vancouver International Airport. Enterprise Rent-a-Car and Discount Car and Truck also service the city of Vancouver and can be called to service the airport.
Plenty of taxis companies run in the Vancouver area and can be flagged down throughout downtown. Guests should expect an approximate C$30 fare from the airport to downtown Vancouver and anywhere from C$5 to C$10 for traveling around downtown. More than 400 taxis are available 24 hours a day for Vancouver International Airport travelers and can be found at outside of both the Domestic and International terminals.
Photo Credit : Tourism Vancouver / Al Harvey
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