Events at Winnipeg convention centre wane due to ongoing pandemic

RBC Convention Centre. Shane Gibson/Global News

While the COVID-19 pandemic has affected Manitoba businesses across a wide range of industries, one sector that has been most heavily hit is conventions and large events.

Limits on gathering sizes, as well as travel restrictions, have resulted in a number of cancellations including 15 planned conventions between September and December at the RBC Convention Centre in Winnipeg.

“Most of the convention business that’s being booked now is for future years,” the centre’s president and CEO, Drew Fisher, told 680 CJOB.

“With the limitations on travel, it does make it very difficult to have a convention — and then gathering sizes that are being limited right across Canada, that absolutely has had an effect on the business being booked in the convention sector.”

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Fisher said there’s hope some events can be salvaged before the end of the year — depending on the state of the pandemic, of course — but overall, the impact of the coronavirus on conventions has been far greater than anyone anticipated at the outset.

“When we got into this in March and the pandemic was announced, I think most businesses around the world thought this would be a two- or three-month down period, but it has extended for a much longer period and there is uncertainty as to when that will lift.

“What’s unfortunate is this was trending to be one of our best years on record, highlighted by some really, really strong large citywide conventions, so it’s disappointing that this pandemic has continued.”

The RBC Convention Centre is hosting the Imagine Van Gogh exhibit starting Sept. 24.

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Another local industry bracing for a slower-than-usual fall is the restaurant business as patios — which have allowed some eateries a small measure of busy traffic in recent months — are set to shut down with the arrival of colder weather.

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Several restaurant owners told Global News that on top of a slower fall season once patios close, they expect revenue to be impacted well into the new year as well.

“With going into our busy season, which is normally October, November, December, we already have cancellations for Christmas parties, birthdays, anniversaries — anything that was even 20 people, they’re still kind of iffy,” said Silver Heights Restaurant owner Tony Siwicki.

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