It was a ‘slam dunk’ for the first-ever Virtual Edition of Sport Events Congress (SEC). This gathering of the sport tourism industry from across Canada moved to an online format in 2021 as an alternative to the traditional in-person gathering, which was not possible this year as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Moving to a robust electronic platform, the 20th edition of SEC, which is planned and organized by Sport Tourism Canada, featured live segments broadcast from a production studio set up in The Westin Ottawa hotel. Combined with pre-recorded content from an outstanding array of both Canadian and international speakers, as well as popular networking activities, the three-day event received rave reviews from the close to 400 delegates who participated.
Planning for the 2021 version of the Congress built on the program that had initially been developed for the 2020 event, scheduled for last March in Edmonton. With its cancellation, and the subsequent progress of the pandemic, many sessions incorporated rebuilding sport events post-Covid, and the impact that sport hosting can have in the economic recovery. That was the focus of the opening keynote presentation from Marsha Walden, the President and CEO of Destination Canada.
Providing perspective on how governments can assist were the Minister of Canadian Heritage, the Honourable Stephen Guilbeault, as well as the Honourable Lisa MacLeod, Minister of Heritage, Sport, Tourism and Culture Industries for the Province of Ontario. Presentations in the breakout sessions covered such topics as the National Hosting Strategy: Creating a Competitive Advantage Internationally; Now What? The Future of Sport Hosing Post-COVID; the Role of Diversity in the World of Events: Small Town … Big Stage; Esports Tourism on the Rise; and sponsorship: The Future of Partnerships.
One of the hallmarks of Sport Events Congress has been the fun element built into the professional development and networking activities. This continued with virtual activities, including a built-in photo booth with sport-themed backgrounds, and the most popular event of all – sharing screen time with their pets, in the FurBaby contest. It proved to be so popular, it’s sure to be back again for a future edition (it even featured a special four-legged guest host named Roscoe)!
In celebration of the 20th year of Sport Events Congress being held, CEO Rick Traer contrasted its early beginnings with the current state of the industry. “Our first year had 48 delegates, which included all of the speakers! Now we regularly have over 400 people attending, and it’s become an important event on the calendar for all facets of the sport tourism industry.”
A virtual Vendor Alley provided a unique online experience that allowed delegates to ‘walk’ through the booths as sponsors highlighted different aspects of their businesses. Sport Tourism Canada appreciated the support of Ottawa Tourism, all of the sponsors and exhibitors, and the financial support of the Government of Canada, and the Government of Ontario to plan and stage Sport Events Congress in this online format.
Day 3 of Sport Events Congress was devoted to Sport Events Exchange. Specially designed to accommodate the needs of this B2B ‘speed-dating’ format, over 400 appointments were scheduled in ten-minute windows to allow destinations and events rights holders a chance to meet and explore the possibility of a perfect match!
Throughout the three days, delegates were able to post comments in a real time chat format. The reviews of the planning, the platform developed by InEvent and the technology support of SW Event Technology were overwhelmingly positive. Everyone is looking forward to a return to an in-person event in 2022, scheduled for Edmonton, AB next March 22-24, but agreed that this was the next best thing to being together to celebrate the resiliency of sport tourism and sport hosting!