Project Name: Urban Destination Development – Waterloo

Within the technology arena, Waterloo Region aspires to be a notable North American destination for meetings and retreats. These innovative conferences will be technologically advanced and supported by exceptional regional hospitality and unique supporting attractions such as St. Jacobs, the Grand River and the G2G Rail Trail to enrich the overall experience. Waterloo Region can also make the technology sector more accessible to residents and visitors through experiences and events.

Waterloo Region is a provincially significant player on the sport and sport hosting front. While this is a key Waterloo Region asset it is also a separate initiative of RTO4 and is further discussed under the dedicated section of Regional Sport Tourism Office (RSTO).

Similarly, the key provincial outdoor assets of the Grand River and the Goderich to Guelph Rail Trail are in part Waterloo Region assets, but as they span multiple municipalities they are further discussed in their own respective sections in this plan.

Background

Existing research and consultations identify three segments in which Kitchener, Waterloo and Cambridge have a distinct competitive advantage:

  1. Technology Tourism
    Waterloo Region has the opportunity to own the meeting market for small to medium events, due to the area’s concentration of high-technology amenities and services. In addition, Kitchener, Waterloo and Cambridge’s proximity to Pearson International Airport and world-class post-secondary institutions (University of Waterloo, Wilfrid Laurier University and Conestoga College) are distinct advantages. Supported by an excellent service infrastructure and innovative technology, these present strong opportunities for the tourism market.Waterloo Region, often described as a “Smart City” and part of the Toronto-Waterloo Innovation Corridor, is home to the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics, the world-renowned Institute for Quantum Computing, Accelerator Centre, Communitech and BlackBerry Limited. This strength, paired with a technology-supportive municipal and regional government focused on investment in economic development, has led to a formal partnership with Waterloo Region Tourism Marketing Corporation (WRTMC) to maximize the potential of this market opportunity.
  2. Sport (discussed under RSTO)
  3. The Outdoors (discussed under Canadian Heritage Grand River and the Goderich to Guelph Rail Trail project)

In 2011, RTO4 commissioned a study to determine the viability of developing the Meetings, Conventions and Incentive travel market in Waterloo Region. A key finding in the research by HLT Advisory Inc. noted an oversupply of competitive convention facilities surrounding the region, both in terms of quantity, price and size.  The Region does not currently have a dedicated, publicly owned convention centre and at this time has no specific plans to build.

Based on regional assets, the HLT study identified and validated the opportunity to own the small to medium size meetings and conventions business in Canada in key vertical segments such as technology.

These pillars, along with supporting festivals, events and attractions, were identified through the Destination Development process in 2017 in consultation with more than 70 community stakeholders.

2019/2020 Objectives

OBJECTIVE #1– Build and strengthen a destination network of key stakeholders.

Key Activities

  • Facilitate meetings with key partners such as WRTMC, local tourism and municipal stakeholders to build partnerships and establish roles and responsibilities for moving forward.
  • Investigate best practices of technology tourism for the leisure market.

 For more details on this project, please visit the 2019/2020 RTO4 Business Plan, pages 41-42.