SOEC inks five-year deal with Jehovah’s Witnesses

Following up on an announcement that was leaked last August, the South Okanagan Events Centre announced the signing of a five-year contract with the Jehovah’s Witnesses of Canada today.

“We are looking forward to returning to Penticton, after an absence of many years,” said Stanton Hill, Jehovah’s Witnesses of Canada convention organizer.  “Penticton offers a beautiful place to visit and we are very much looking forward to enjoying the hospitality of this fine city.”

The annual conventions are a spiritual highlight for Jehovah’s Witnesses, focusing on bible education.  Annually, seven million Jehovah’s Witnesses meet in 236 countries.

The first Penticton convention will run from June 21 to 23 of this year, bringing up to 3,500 delegates to Penticton for a minimum of four nights. This is the same weekend as the Peach City Beach Cruise and the weekend before the annual Penticton Elvis Festival, which runs from June 28 to 30 this year.

That should make for a very busy start to the summer tourist season in Penticton, especially for those in the accommodation industry.

“Before selecting those dates, I did my research,” said Sally Pierce, assistant general manager of the SOEC complex. She found that while hotels in the north end of the city fill up quickly for large conventions, it is slower for those in the Skaha Lake area.

“The reason why the accommodators are excited is because the business will extend and include everyone,” said Pierce. “That’s a win, absolutely. That’s what we strive for.”

News of the deal broke in late August 2012, when the Penticton Hospitality Association issued a release announcing the Jehovah’s Witnesses would be coming to Penticton this year.

Both the Jehovah’s Witnesses organization and Global Spectrum, who manage the SOEC and the Penticton Trade and Convention centre, were reluctant to confirm the PHA release.

“They specifically asked us not to announce, because they wanted to make the announcement to their convention delegates and they were going to do that in December,” said Pierce. “The five-year contract is subject to the success of the first year.”

Pierce said she has been working on securing the contract since 2009, the result of following a lead from managers at another Global Spectrum-managed facility.

“The Jehovah’s Witnesses group has worked with many Global Spectrum managed facilities in Canada and the United States,” said Pierce, who explained that it isn’t unusual to take that length of time to secure a contract of this size.

“When you are coordinating that amount of people, it takes some time and you’ve got to co-ordinate the accommodation and the travel, there is more to it than just booking the convention space,” said Pierce. “Jehovah’s Witnesses is a prime example, you’ve got up to 3,500 delegates. The booking lead-time for an association, especially a large association, is three to five years. That’s very common.”

Dates will soon be finalized for future Jehovah’s Witnesses conventions. They are scheduled to fall between June and mid-July in Penticton.

The Jehovah’s Witnesses of Canada have more information available online in the form of a video clip.


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