The iconic summit of the world's top minds in technology, entertainment and design (TED for short) is moving to B.C. in 2014, after 29 years in California
Citing a need to get more global, the flagship TED Conference is moving out of its usual week-long conference digs in Long Beach, California (as well as a concurrent event in Palm Springs), and heading to Canada's west coast next year—and likely through 2020 according to local promoters. The non-profit event, usually held in the spring, went shopping for a new, more international home last year in order to be better positioned as a global brand. When organizers approached Vancouver, local business and tourism leaders seized the opportunity with gusto—but sealed lips.
"We put together a combination of concessions with the hotels and Vancouver Convention Centre, as well as partnership investment dollars," says Greg Klassen, the CTC’s senior vice-president, Marketing Strategy and Communications, who's been working on the deal for months.
"The cash contribution derived from the consortia of the CTC, Tourism Vancouver and the Vancouver Hotel Destination Association is a partnership. It allows our partnership to leverage the TED brand with that of our own."
Klassen says the ROI of hosting TED—in which delegates pay $7,500 for five days of 18-minute talks by 50+ speakers—is profound, ranging from the obvious immediate impact of housing 1,300 global influencers next March in Vancouver and Whistler (which plays the role of Palm Springs in hosting the TEDActive sister event), to "long tail" benefits like Canada's designation as the TED Host Country and Vancouver's title of TED Host City. "We can use this designation, with approval of TED, to help Canada position and sell itself as a meetings, events and convention destination in the future."
In keeping with the event's tag of "ideas worth spreading," the talks have long been broadcast online and devoured by an international audience. As of last November, TED Talks have been viewed more than a billion times. That's a lot of potential tourists.
So why Vancouver? Chris Anderson, the magazine publisher whose non-profit company, The Sapling Foundation, oversees the event, called Vancouver “one of the world’s greatest cities, combining a thriving culture of innovation with glorious nature.” TED reps also loved the convention centre and its commitment to LEED certification, says Klassen.
"Also, the convention centre's proximity to three great hotels while sitting on the ocean's edge with the backdrop of the coastal mountains," he says. "TED is really focused on the intimacy of their event. They love the dialogue that continues after the day's events which is why they encourage creating a kind of TED city enclave between the convention centre, the Pan Pacific, Waterfront and Pacific Rim hotels where most of the delegates will stay."
According to industry numbers, meetings, conventions and incentive travel attracts close to two million visitors each year to Canada, with total spending of $1.7 billion—almost 24 per cent of all money spent by inbound overnight travellers. Hosting an event of such magnitude should also go a long way to solidifying Canada's perch as the No. 1 location for outbound meetings business from the U.S., which brings in about $1.4 billion.
But despite the influx of heads in beds and a shot-in-the-arm for listless foreign visitors numbers, Klassen sees a longer game unfolding here.
"Through TED and other influential conferences we will be able to achieve Canada's economic and social goals through possible direct foreign investment, foreign education in Canada and investor-class immigration," he says. "The war on international talent is massive. It's through conferences like this that we can secure a world-class engineer or scientist and bring them and their family here to create here. That's the bigger payoff."