Profile: Michelle Handley, NWT Conference Bureau

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Event planners looking for something different know that they’ve come to the right place when they talk to Michelle Handley, Manager of the NWT Conference Bureau and Business Relations with NWT Tourism.

“Be brave enough to lose your tie,” she tells them. “People don’t know quite what to expect, and when they arrive they’re blown away by the beauty, the friendliness and the access to nature. Once they arrive, there’s a noticeable change. They relax, they love it.”

The NWT Conference Bureau was established in 2014 to fill an essential service for one of the North’s highest-spending visitors – the business traveller. Destination Canada estimates that conference delegates in the NWT bring in about $400/night. 

The Economic Opportunities Strategy recommended the development of a NWT Conference Bureau to make the NWT a competitive destination for the business traveller market. The Bureau is funded by the GNWT’s Department of ITI and helps to raise public awareness, provide guidance and information, and get organizers in touch with local operators, hospitality workers and event planners.

Michelle’s position is a one-stop liaison point for Meeting, Conference and Incentive Travel (MC&IT). Creating preliminary budgets, developing presentations, hosting site visits, attending trade shows, assisting with bids and even dispelling myths about northern Canada – it’s all in a day’s work at the NWT Conference Bureau.

Michelle’s work usually begins one to five years before an event takes place and ends before the event begins.

With clients ranging from soccer associations and fur harvesters, to Francophone school boards and the makers of survival equipment, working with the Conference Bureau means being a jack-of-all-traits. It’s no wonder that Michelle’s motto is, “think outside the box and make it work”.