If a unique coastal setting and a warm Maritime population appeal to you, consider Halifax for your next event. They had me at hello, as I was greeted by white-haired volunteers in tartan vests at the luggage carousel. Easy access by Air Canada or Porter. And one-stop conference planning at the AAA 4-diamond Westin Nova Scotian. The Westin Nova Scotian aspires to put a fresh perspective on events and conferences. At this it succeeds resoundingly.
First opened in 1930 as The Nova Scotia Hotel, this brick building stretches broadly along Halifax’s waterfront. It’s visible for many city blocks when driving or walking down South Street and still presents an imposing image today. Last renovated in 2008, it has boasted the Westin brand proudly since 1996.
I’ve enjoyed Halifax both as a student and as the mother of a student and have stayed at the Westin on more than one occasion. Most recently, I did so with an eye to its event facilities. Some recent accolades include: Progress Magazine – Best Space for Special Events in Atlantic Canada, The Coast – Best Halifax Hotel – 2011 and Wine Spectator – Award of Excellence- 2011.
Their Conference Services Managers and Executive Meeting Managers offer professional, personalized service. The versatile space can accommodate cocktails for 20 or breakfast for 500; social or corporate. There are 17 function rooms of various sizes totaling 23,000 sq. ft. of meeting space. All but one feature natural light. I saw the air wall getting pulled out and a great dance floor being laid down.
There was a buzz during my visit about the upcoming International Security Forum. This is the Westin’s third year hosting cabinet ministers and senior government officials, 4-star generals, justices of supreme courts, legislators, business leaders, journalists, writers, academics, leaders from prominent think tanks and NGOs. Specific name dropping? The likes of Israeli politician Ehud Barak and our own Minister of National Defense, the Honourable Peter Mackay. Glenn Bowie, area director of sales and marketing for Newcastle Hotels calls participants “the rock stars of the political world”. Rest assured that if the Westin draws this level of repeat customer, they can satisfy your guests, too.
By the way, there is free shuttle service within the downtown core. That means your guests can easily get to the farmer’s market, Pier 21 Museum, good shopping, as well as many other charming sites and great restaurants.
Of course, the R & R element is key for out-of-town guests attending an event. To this end, the hotel offers 310 guest rooms of various sizes. Rooms are surprisingly spacious, furnished in the updated boutique mode contrasting dark wood against white linens – on Heavenly Beds®. The blackout drapes are the best I have experienced anywhere in the world.
In-room entertainment includes first-run movies but be forewarned of the cost – $17.99 plus tax. Convenient WIFI in room comes with a price tag as it does at all high-caliber hotels. The business centre is an excellent alternative as it is conveniently located, free of charge and there were computers available every time I visited.
Recreation includes indoor pool and whirlpool, fitness centre, outdoor tennis court, Yuk Yuk’s Comedy Club, Sykea Salon & Spa, Wii/X-box lounge. Regarding groups, the spa can only perform one massage per time slot but it proved relatively easy to secure appointments.
In the service and hospitality industry, it’s the staff on which reputation rides and the Westin is no exception. From the smiling faces behind the desk in the lobby to our server, Chris, who gave us not only croissants but the inside scoop every morning and housekeeping who repeatedly tried to fix my in-room safe, all were hospitable and helpful.
I must single out the staff at Elements, where hotel guests enjoy a 25% discount. From reservation-taking through coffee-pouring, they excelled at service. They are familiar with and proud of their focus on local in both food and wine. On their recommendation, we enjoyed several bottles with a price tag of just $5 over cost! They also personally carried our unfinished bottle of wine and glasses from dinner into Yuk Yuk’s next door.
For food & beverage, Eve’s is a practical alternative, offering Starbuck’s and pastries until 2 pm, bar nibbles thereafter and live music nightly.
The Westin Nova Scotian is eco friendly down to green meetings. It has received a 4 leaf rating out of 5 with Green Key Global and with The Audubon Green Leaf Eco-Rating Program. Tree hugging planners will appreciate how visible their Eco Green Initiative Program is throughout the facilities, from CFL light bulbs to recycle containers alongside garbage cans. A cool Energy Management Dashboard not only shows energy saving targets for the month but also real-time electricity and natural gas demand. Check their website for a complete list of innovative details such as complimentary valet parking for guests driving a hybrid vehicle.
*Please note: Nobody I encountered knew that I would be writing this article. P.S. Upon arrival back home, I realized I had left some belongings behind. When I called the hotel to inquire, not only had the items been found, but the person who took the call remembered me personally and is mailing that package to me at no charge. That’s service with a smile – my smile, that is.