Toronto Incentive Travel


Incentive Travel & Corporate Events in Toronto

Toronto City Hall
Toronto City Hall

by Anne Thornley-Brown, President
Executive Oasis International
Incentive Travel Specialists

This blog entry focuses on opportunities for Toronto (GTA) based companies to reward their teams locally when funds aren’t available for foreign travel. It will also of value for foreign companies (particulary in the USA, the Middle East and Asia) that are considering Toronto as an incentive travel destination.

Toronto Based Companies

There are many reasons that some Toronto based companies are deciding to forego foreign travel this year and reward their team by staying closer to home.

  • due to the economic downturn, funds are tighter this year
  • companies that are doing well want to conserve their resources so that they will have a cushion in case they run into turbulent times up ahead
  • the local economy could use a boost
  • domestic travel is important to bridge the gap in tourism revenue created by US and other foreign companies staying closer to home this year

Explore the World without Leaving the GTA (Toronto)

Fortunately, Toronto now has enough a multi-cultural flavour that it’s possible to experience many of the elements of  foreign travel without getting on a plane.  Here are some of the elments that you can build into your itinerary to give your team the feel of  foreign travel:

  • Explore a full size, replica of a 19th Century Canadian village at Black Creek Pioneer Village – Come in December and experience Christmas by Lamplight
  • Enjoy sushi and terriyaki at a Japanese teppanyaki  restaurant
  • Visit a Japanese shopping centre
  • Hunt  for bargains in Chinatown or an Asian shopping centre
  • Cheer for your favourite team at the Dragon Boat Races
  • Treat your team to afternoon tea or high tea at a traditional English tearoom in York Region
  • Enjoy  Middle Eastern cuisine complete with entertainment by a belly dancer at a Morrorcan or Persian restaurant
  • Sample crepes and other French cuisine at a variety of French restaurants
  • Discover treasures from every corner of the globe in Kensington market
  • Savour the delights of a scrumptious paella dinner and watch Flamenco dancing without setting a foot in Spain
  • Tickle your palette with Jamaican jerk chicken
  • Dance at Caribana, an authentic West Indian carnival that takes place every August
  • Dress up for a Bralizian Carnival Ball
  • Feel the thunder of hooves at Polo for Heart in June
  • Relax at the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair and Horse Show in November.
  • Spend time at a casino without travelling to Las Vegas, Atlantic City or Montecarlo.
  • You don’t have to go to Dubai to take a dinner cruise (and enjoy fireworks if you come in late June or early July)
  • You don’t have to go to Dubai to take a dinner cruise (and enjoy fireworks if you come in late June or early July)
  • You don’t have to go to Paris or New York to spend an afternoon at an art gallery or museum
  • You don’t have to go to London or Broadway to take in a theatrical production. You’ll have a wide selection from which to choose in Toronto’s theatre district, the Shaw Theatre in Niagara-on-the-Lake, and Stratford’s Avon or Festival Theatres

A local event planning firm like ours, will help you time your visit to take advantage of the multitude of concerts, ethnic festivals and international film festivals that take place throughout the year. Toronto has a lot to offer. Whether you’re flying in for a visit or a Toronto based company considering staying at home to reward your team this year, you’ll be glad you took the time to get to know it.


Toronto Inbound Incentive Travel

With the low value of the Canadian dollar relative to the US dollar and some other major currencies, Canada is an affordable destination for companies that are seeking an interesting incentive travel itinerary to reward their teams or express appreciation to clients. One benefit of the economic meltdown is that airlines like Singapore Airlines, Etihad Airwyas and Air Canada have some really competitive fares that make travel to Canada affordable. A number of hotels and resorts currently  have recession friendly pricing  for 2009 and 2010.  Book early and you will stretch your budget.

Every region of Canada has something special to offer, however, today we are focusing on Toronto and areas that are no more than a 2  – 3 hour drive from Toronto.

Accommodation Options

If you’re planning to take your team to the Greater Toronto area (GTA as locals call it). There are numerous options to lend variety to your trip. In downtown Toronto, there are large hotels with full amenities and historical significance. If you venture 45 minutes to 2 hours away from Toronto, you can find:

  • conference centres with full amenities
  • country lodges on several acres
  • lakeside hideaways that are perfect for meetings and strategy sessions for small teams
  • luxurious resorts with extensive recreational facilities

Other areas to explore nearby include York Region, just North of Toronto, the Muskokas, Niagara Falls, and picturesque Niagara-on-the-Lake.

In Toronto and all of these areas, there boutique hotels, small inns, and lodges where, with a little flexibility in dates, your team can have enjoy exclusive use.

Areas to Explore

Of course you’ll want to see the CN Tower.

In a future blog entry, I’ll go into detail about what else you can see in various parts of Toronto. For now, I’ll just list the areas you can explore and identify areas near Toronto  that would be ideal for day or overnight excursions.


    • Chinatown
    • Kensington Market
    • The Underground City
    • The Distillery District
  • Yorkville

York Region

Niagara-on-the Lake

The Muskokas

Port Carling

Pitfalls to Avoid

  1. Don’t cram too much into a stay that is too brief.  Instead, arrive early in the day, stay for at least 3 days and leave late on your last day. There is a lot to see and do and you want to get in all of the key elements of your business meeting and allow enough time for exploration.
  2. Traffic can be heavily congested so a commute to the downtown core from an airport hotel or North of the city can be a long and uncomfortable experience for your guests. (Torontonians refer to the Don Valley Parkway as the “Don Valley Parking lot”.)  So, definitely avoid travel during rush hour. Instead, move your group to and from  the downtown core after dinner when traffic is lighter. Then, they can wake up refereshed the next morning,  ready to enjoy what the city has to offer.If you decide to forego a stay downtown, allow at least an hour to travel in each direction ( 1 1/2 – 2 hours during the winter).
  3. When a local planner is honest enough to give you feedback that a plan you are considering is not viable…..listen. This advice is applicable whether you are considering a trip to Toronto, Dubai or anywhere else in the world.There will always be firms that are so determined to obtain your business that they will smile, take your money, and tell you that whatever you are requesting is viable. By contrast, incentive travel planners and event planners who will let you know about pitfalls to avoid are worth their weight in gold. They’ll make you look good and help you avoid mistakes.

I recently handled an inquiry from a prospective client that insisted on staying at an airport hotel and ending their meeting at 3:00. They simply would not listen to advice that, given traffic patterns in Toronto, the team building session they were planning would be much too rushed to be enjoyable.

Another prospective client demanded a BBQ on or near the beach in downtown Toronto even when they were advised that this would exceed their budget and that there was a strong liklihood that the experience would not be pleasant due to the odours near Lake Ontario on certain days.

Finally, consider the company that was  intent on staying in downtown Toronto when their main reason for coming to Ontario was to go dog sledding.

A planner with integrity may not always tell you what you want to hear but they may save your group from some unpleasant experiences and hours of uncomfortable traavel  to ensure that you have a fabulous stay in Toronto.

Tips to  Get the Most Out of Your Time in Toronto

  1. If you venture North of the city to York region, you will enjoy unique and more spacious accomodation and dining facilities for a fraction of what it would cost you in downtown Toronto.
  2. Consider splitting your time. Perhaps stay at a Muskoka, York Region, Caledon, or Niagara-on-the-Lake property for most of your trip and spend a couple of nights in downtown Toronto.
  3. See Toronto the way that many Torontonians do by getting a TTC (Toronto Transit Commission) Pass. For $9 Canadian, an adult can enjoy unlmited Bus, Subway and Streetcar transportation (except for a few rush hour routes).
  4. If you plan to enjoy unique winter activities like dog sledding, book them well in advance, they sell out fast. I would strongly recommend booking dog sledding at least 4 months prior to your arrival….6 months in advance would be ideal.
  5. If you come during the winter, definitely be prepared. You will need to rent or purchase winter coats (or jackets), sweaters, boots, scarves, hats, and mittens. Dress in layers for maximum warmth.
  6. Double check the visa requirements based on the countries of birth and citizenships of your employees.

For more information visit about what you can do in Toronto & the GTA:

Incentive Travel Toronto

Team Building available in and near Toronto

Companies located in or near the GTA can stretch their budget by having business and strategy sessions on-site at their company premises and enjoying recreational and dining facilities at a local hotel or resort for part of the day.

Just for fun:

      • Great Canadian Race
        If you want to give your team the opportunity to explore downtown through a Great Canadian Race or by making room in the schedule for shopping, consider staying at a downtown hotel for 1 or 2 nights.
      • Cooking Team Building

Executive Oasis International offers one stop shopping for local or foreign companies wanting to plan exciting itineraries to reward their team. We’ll help you:

      •  find a hotel or resort that’s a perfect fit for your selected activities
      •  arrange transfers, handle logistics re: meeting room and AV
      • plan recreational activities and entertainment to help your team relax and unwind
      • design effective team building sessions and facilitate them expertly

Most of all we’ll give you solid advice about how to get the best out of this destination.


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