Toronto is a multi-faceted MICE destination

ITCM’s correspondent, Natasha Blair, hosted by the Convention & Visitors Association, gives an overview of what Toronto can offer to event organisers

Initially I was assured that although some people think of Canada as similar to the USA, there are important differences. We should bear in mind that HM The Queen is the country’s Head of State; Toronto, the largest city was founded by the British 175 years ago.
Toronto is far from being a sea of skyscrapers. There are sculptures positioned around the city, enhancing the landscape. During my visit, I was surprised at how few people I saw on the streets in the business districts.
I learned that this is because they are underground in a warren of 25km of shops known as The Path, only accessible from the skyscraper office buildings and hotels.
I stayed at The Delta Chelsea, the largest hotel in Canada with 1,590 bedrooms in its twin towers. The hotel’s conference rooms include a ballroom that divides into two, taking up to 460 theatre-style.
The 73 bedrooms that form part of the Delta Chelsea hotels executive or ‘Signature’ club are of a superior quality, stylish and modern with the use of an executive lounge. 
Julie Holmen, Director of Sales, Corporate, Toronto Convention & Visitors Association, points out that the trend towards high-end residence hotels is more evident than ever in the city, with players like Trump, Ritz Carlton, Four Seasons and Shangri-La all building properties in Toronto. ‘This further enhances’, she says, ‘what is already widely recognised to be one of North America’s best overall hotel scenes. Close to 1,000 lavish hotel rooms and suites are slated for completion by 2011.’
The city currently only has one 5-star property, the designer-led 77-bedroom Hazelton in Yorkville, the city’s chic district. A member of The Leading Small Hotels of the World, it boasts the largest bedrooms in town, each over 600 sqft.
The hotel restaurant has an adjoining private dining/meeting area, taking up to 16, with a 32-in plasma screen.  There is also a 25-seat private screening room and a meeting room holding up to 75 for a reception.
Several of the skyscrapers have restaurants with superb views where there are private rooms for groups. The Panorama restaurant and Lounge can cater for up to 300 for a reception.
The CN tower, one of Toronto’s landmarks, has the 360 Restaurant on the 115th floor, which seats 420. The restaurant revolves very slowly, giving diners a panoramic view of the whole city. On the floor below, Horizons has a fully equipped audio-sound system and dance area in a flexible space that can take up to 600. 

Museums on the menu

Many of the city’s museums have restaurants with well-known chefs who provide fine dining for corporate events. Recently re-opened, the innovatively designed Art Gallery of Ontario has been enlarged by renowned architect Frank Gehry. There is 7,200 sqft of space, Baillie Court, on the third floor of the Art Gallery with floor-to-ceiling windows. The area holds up to 450 for a reception, although the room can also be divided into three. The custom-designed ceiling has a range of lighting and sound. Original works from the Gallery’s collection are on display in all areas.
At the Gardiner Museum, celebrity chef Jamie Kennedy runs the restaurant that can be used for private functions of up to 120 for a sit-down dinner.
A dinner for any number up to 2,000 can be held in various locations throughout the Royal Ontario Museum dedicated to world cultures and natural history.
Hidden away on the 7th floor of an office block, the Carlu is an Art Deco event space. A National Historic Site, it has been restored to its original 1930s splendour but is equipped with up-to-date technology. The space includes an acoustic 1,200-seat concert hall, the Round Room, which can hold up to 350, and the Grand Foyer.

Allstream Centre – Conference & Convention Centre at Exhibition Place  is accessed through the impressive Princes Gates that are reminiscent of Berlin’s Brandenburg Gate. It is due to open at the end of October, and on a hard-hat tour I was able to appreciate the Art Deco features that have been preserved while gutting the interior to construct a high tech, flexible conference and convention centre. Facilities include 20 meeting rooms accommodating from 50 to 1,700 and a column-free ballroom for up to 3,000 that will be the largest in Canada. A hotel on the site is due to open in 2013. The building will be connected to the Direct Energy centre by a climatically controlled underground tunnel.
Within the Exhibition Place complex the historic Liberty Grand, formerly the Ontario Government Building, over-looks Lake Ontario.
Three ballrooms and an open concept room each have their own entrance, accommodating from 200 to 3,000, if taken in its entirety. The larger ballroom has a mezzanine floor. All the rooms open onto an outdoor courtyard that can be used for receptions for 400. The venue is owned and run by the Liberty Entertainment Group who manage and cater at numerous culinary and entertainment venues throughout Toronto.
The Metro Toronto Convention Centre (MTCC) is the country’s largest convention centre. It is made up of two buildings. It has 460,000 sqft of exhibition space, 64 meeting rooms, a 1,330-seat multi-purpose theatre and two ballrooms. One of the two Intercontinental hotels in the city adjoins the centre.

Take in Niagara

Niagara Falls is just over an hour’s drive from Toronto. Niagara benefits from a microclimate and in the last ten years many vineyards have been established in the vicinity. I visited the Peller Estate which has a fine dining restaurant, and several private rooms that can accommodate up to 99. This includes the Barrel Cellar, where up to 80 people can eat among candle-lit barrels. The Estate specialises in tasting menus, partnering the food with the wine. Up to 200 can be accommodated in cuvée-style dining - walking from one food or wine station to another.
As Tara Gordon, Vice-President of Meetings & Convention Sales for the Toronto Convention & Visitors Association, says ‘We want delegates, who come to Toronto for a convention, to leave with the feeling that the place is so great that they would love to come back and bring their families.’


For details of venues and services mentioned in this article, please contact Mark Crawford, Account Director, Corporate, International, Tel: 00-1-416-203-3844