Vancouver has always been eager to capture as much of Portland’s crowded convention and event space market as possible, but the Waterfront Development Project could take those plans to a new level.
The $1.5 billion development will add two new hotels, a host of restaurants, a stay cable pier, walkways and parks to Vancouver’s waterfront. It will also add more overflow hotel space, additional breakout meeting areas and a variety of entertainment options to draw would-be convention goers. And Visit Vancouver USA is gearing up with a new marketing campaign to highlight it, said Kim Bennett, president and CEO.
“We’re so excited to see this long-awaited project come alive,” Bennett said. “It’s going to elevate our community beyond just tourism.”
The agency plans to do marketing campaigns in the upcoming year aimed at leisure and business travelers, along with reaching out to the lucrative event market, which will find a more spacious and entertainment-rich Vancouver to explore, Bennett said.
“We’ve always had more convention space than we had hotel space, so we could see the Hilton maximizing that out a lot more,” Bennett said. “This is about how Vancouver is perceived as a tourism destination, and that’s good for everybody.”
The specifics of the Waterfront marketing push are still being worked out, but they will be included in Visit Vancouver USA’s overall marketing plan, which should come out in late November, Bennett said.
“We want to let people know when things are opening,” Bennett said. “Meeting planners often look at booking sites three or four years out, as well, so we have to get on that now. They need to know this is all on the horizon.”
The first restaurants are set to open in late July 2018, with much of the rest of the offerings opening by Sept. 30, 2018, Barry Cain, president of Gramor Development, the lead contractor on the project, has said.
“It’s going to be a game changer for us,” Bennett said. “We’re going to see a very vibrant waterfront coming on board. As a destination it enhances everything we already have going on.”
Visit Vancouver USA may also work with the city of Vancouver on an additional lodging tax to fund more outreach, Bennett said.
Doing that could help the agency bring more businesses to the area and in turn spur more jobs, she added.
“Anywhere that you can create vibrancy – it helps bring in new businesses and helps our existing businesses grow,” Bennett said.
Beyond that, she also expects the project to bring a whole new crop of tourists over from Portland.
“Anytime something is available on a waterfront with rooftop dining, a beautiful park and an unusual pier like the one we’re putting in, it’s going to draw more visitors,” she said. “And with all of that and the entertainment programming we expect in terms of events, we’ll be able to broaden what we already have here with Esther Short Park.”