Tourist attractions offer novel venues for corporate events

Vancouver’s art gallery, aquarium, museum provide entertainment and networking space

Riddhima Aari - chung
Vancouver Aquarium’s catering and events manager, Riddhima Aari, expects the number of corporate events at her tourist attraction to reach 200 this year | Chung Chow

One of the more risqué events this year at the Vancouver Aquarium is set for tomorrow, August 1, and is part of Pride Week. The event, called After Hours, promises drag performances as well as “animal sex talks,” where aquarium representatives discuss marine animals’ reproductive strategies.

The event is clearly a party and not a corporate retreat, but it shows the versatility of events possible at the aquarium – a venue that has been rapidly increasing the number of corporate events it hosts each year.

Business in Vancouver's just-released list of largest meeting and convention venues for 2019 shows that the Aquarium has 185,151 square feet of space. That is big enough to accommodate up to 2,000 people when all of it is being used, according to the aquarium’s events manager, Riddhima Aari.

She expects the facility to host about 200 events this year, up from 180 in 2018. Many of them are corporate retreats, cocktail parties or networking socials aimed at providing a more memorable and engaging venue than a traditional hotel ballroom.

The aquarium adds an element of intrigue and enables guests to not only mingle, but also admire sea lions or jellyfish after hours, when the facility is closed to the public.

Not all Metro Vancouver tourist attractions seek out the after-hours event business.

Capilano Suspension Bridge Park communications manager Stacy Chala told BIV that her facility is too busy to host large corporate events and, if there are any, they are likely to be small ones at its Cliff House restaurant.

Others, however, see value in providing innovative spaces.

Science World at Telus World of Science, for example, has more than 74,000 square feet of space to potentially rent out.

The Vancouver Art Gallery (VAG) has been increasing the number of events that it hosts and expects to have about 100 this year, up from 88 last year.

“Our [events] business is steady year-round,” the gallery’s events manager, Samantha Brett, told BIV.

While the aquarium has rules for corporate guests that are intended to protect marine life – such as that no music can be louder than 85 decibels – the art gallery has no such restrictions. Having a machine spew dry ice, however, or doing something to alter humidity levels, would likely be frowned upon, because it could damage the art.

One perk for visitors who attend corporate events at VAG spaces, such as a room with a balcony that overlooks Robson Square, is they can linger through the gallery after the event is over, appreciating art without throngs of visitors competing for space.

“Event rentals are designed to be turnkey, meaning the cost includes security, coat check, basic audiovisual equipment and technician support as well as an event liaison,” Brett said.

The iconic white building next to Vanier Park houses two other venues corporate event planners may consider: the H.R. MacMillan Space Centre and the Museum of Vancouver (MOV).

Both organizations offer inside and outside space for corporate events.

The space centre, which some fondly refer to as the Planetarium, has an iconic 230-seat star theatre that in years past was best known for Pink Floyd laser light shows. Executive director Raylene Marchand told BIV that this 360-degree theatre is the largest of her venue’s facilities and that it has a stage for bands or speakers.

A second theatre holds 209 people and there is also gallery space for about 200 people, she said.

The MOV offers a range of exhibits that change frequently, according to its director of visitor experience, Greg Fruno.

“We have classics, such as our 1950s gallery with diner artifacts and a functioning jukebox; our Neon gallery with beloved large-scale signs from Vancouver’s past; temporary exhibitions that have ranged in theme in the past couple of years from Expo 86 to local photography, to art pieces that only can be found in the MOV collection, to Vancouver’s local animal and plant life.” •