The COVID-19 pandemic has come with very few “bright sides”, but the shutdown of visitors flowing to Regina for events has illustrated (albeit in a painful way) just how pivotal the events, conventions and tradeshows (commonly known as “ECT”) sector is to the Regina economy.
The remainder of 2020 will stand in sharp contrast to the few years preceding the pandemic, which saw Regina host a variety of big-ticket events from the Heritage Classic, to the CP Women’s Open, to multiple sold-out Garth Brooks concerts and everything in between. All this in addition to the Regina Folk Festival, Canadian Western Agribition, Saskatchewan Roughriders seasons, and countless other routine events the city has become accustomed to hosting each year.
The Sheepdogs play Krugofest, courtesy of Tandem X Visuals
Saskatchewan favourites The Sheepdogs.
Photo courtesty of Tandem X Visuals
A World-Class Event Destination
It’s no secret why Regina has emerged as an ECT powerhouse in recent years. The city enjoys all the assets you might need to put on a truly spectacular event, and we know how to put on a show. Regina’s Evraz Place is the largest interconnected eventplex in the country and is home to the modern and versatile Mosaic Stadium which seats 33,000. Saskatchewan consistently has one of the highest rates of volunteerism anywhere in Canada, and that volunteer spirit is on display in Regina anytime a major event is in town. To top it all off, Regina’s size and the proximity of event venues to a variety of hotels and restaurants is a true competitive advantage few other cities in North America can offer.
Put simply, Regina consistently punches above its weight class in the events world and has a phenomenal track record of success, though we’re now seeing the flip side of that success. With the near-total removal of events amid COVID-19, Regina’s ECT and hospitality sectors have endured a massive loss of economic activity – a loss that underlines just how key major events are for Regina’s economic and cultural identity. We bring people together, we lead with prairie hospitality, we welcome newcomers in with open arms and treat them like a local. It’s what we do.
Hope on the Horizon
KrugoFest attendees watch from their social distanced
balcony “pods”. Photo courtesty of Tandem X Visuals
The reality is there’s actually plenty of hope on the horizon. With Regina’s consistently low case numbers, the city is well positioned to try new ways of doing things and take advantage of this time to ready ourselves for our new reality. Regina’s ECT Alliance (which is comprised of The City of Regina, Economic Development Regina, Tourism Saskatchewan, Regina Hotel Association and Regina Exhibition Association Ltd.) continues to bid on events in the (hopefully) post-COVID future.
The Alliance has already successfully secured the 2022 Saskatchewan Winter Games and has worked to develop a $325,000 event fund to attract future events to the city and help restore the visitor economy so that we can return better and stronger than ever. In addition, the Government of Saskatchewan has announced $35 million in support for the province’s hard-hit tourism and hospitality sector.
Meanwhile, all is not lost. Local event-planners are even taking matters into their own hands. Earlier this month Regina-based travel app Krugo hosted KrugoFest, a meticulously planned rooftop concert series which allowed attendees to joining the festivities from the safety of their own social-distanced hotel balcony at the Hilton Double Tree. Other local events like the Regina Folks Festival and the Cathedral Village Arts Festival are also getting creative with a blend of virtual experiences and socially distanced events like “drive-in” concerts.
At the same time, Tourism Regina is developing an aggressive campaign to attract regional travelers to the Queen City over the coming months to enjoy our many attractions, vibrant culinary scene – and maybe stay over a night or two. While many events are cancelled, having safe, responsible fun doesn’t have to be. Regina’s hotels, restaurants and attractions are committed to meeting all health guidelines and operating safety.
The Show Must Go On
The COVID-19 pandemic has disproportionately affected Regina’s ECT and hospitality sectors, but in doing so it has highlighted just how important these sectors are and how much opportunity there is to further solidify Regina’s position as a prime event location once major events are allowed to return. Let it be known that Regina’s formidable events sector is patiently planning to come back with a bang.