The Pandemic Story & Reopen of Canada’s largest venue, Exhibition Place

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The Pandemic Story & Reopen of Canada’s largest venue, Exhibition Place

Laura Purdy, GM of Toronto, Canada’s Exhibition Place (an UFI member) is unable to attend the UFI Global Congress this year. Ahead of the Updates from Around the World panel discussion, we spoke to her about the pandemic, becoming a film studio and (at last!) reopening.

Laura, you are the GM of the largest exhibition center in Canada. How did your organization weather the pandemic closures?

In the summer of 2020, we learned that the pandemic shutdown of our industry would be extended for several more months; so, we shifted our business to temporarily operate our entire convention centre as a full-service film studio. Our government regulations allowed the filming industry to remain open with stringent COVID19 restrictions. Our employee’s service delivery skills were transferable to the filming industry, and over the course of 15 months we successfully hosted over 30 film productions, including major Hollywood studios, streaming services, and television specialty channels.

Some of our film studio clients used our convention centre for durations up to 6 months – building multiple, elaborate sets in our exhibit halls. This pandemic business shift allowed our team to implement our GBAC Star infection control practices daily and enabled us to retain a significant number of staff throughout the pandemic.  We officially received government approval to re-open as a convention centre in late September 2021, which allowed us to set an end date of October 31 as a film studio, and to transition back to our exhibition and convention business starting November 1st.   We are very excited to return to live business events again.

With Canada doing well on its vaccination rate and exhibitions restarting, what is one piece of advice you would give to others who have not been able to reopen?  

I would recommend using this time of pause to your advantage, and to prepare your organization for a safe re-opening. Over the last 18 months at Exhibition Place, we worked to enhance our corporate culture, implemented new platforms and technologies and skill-trained our employees.  We received our GBAC Star, completed our SkyBridge connection to our onsite hotel, upgraded our Wi-Fi technology, and implemented a DEI strategy.  We are now re-opening our convention centre and offering Free High-Speed WiFi Internet throughout Enercare Centre and Beanfield Centre for our clients, exhibitors, and attendees.

What are you most looking forward to, now that you are officially reopened?  

I’m looking forward to the excitement of live events; experiencing our team’s enthusiasm and camaraderie and seeing the joy on attendee’s faces when they walk into our convention centre. Bring it on!


About the Author:

Stephanie Selesnick, President of Las Vegas-based International Trade Information, Inc. works with exhibition organizers to internationalize their shows, one expo at a time. They recently introduced the International Exhibitor Representation Program are the long time North American representatives for SNIEC, the Shanghai New International Expo Centre in China. A second-generation former show organizer, Stephanie blogs for UFI, the Global Association for the Exhibition Industry and Exhibition World, and enjoys sharing knowledge online and in person. She is a founding member of the Exhibitions Think Tank, Women in Exhibitions Network North America, serves on the faculty of UFI’s Exhibition Management School and is a Virtual Events Institute Subject Matter Expert.

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