Oilsands trade show returns to Fort McMurray after hiatus

After the Fort McMurray wildfire forced the event to take a one-year hiatus, the Oil Sands Trade Show & Conference is back in town on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Sixteen months after the fire, the city’s largest hotel chain said its 832 rooms are all booked up.

“Any event of this nature to help us is absolutely great,” said Jean-Marc Guillamot, area director for the Fort McMurray Hotel Group. “It has been a struggle with the expectation of the boom. Building has not trickled down to the hotel industry.”

Conference organizers expect to receive 5,000 attendees and 279 exhibitors over the two days.

“We are certainly excited to have the show back in Fort McMurray and it certainly shows we have a need,” conference director Wes Scott said. “We understand that all of the hotel rooms are booked again here in the city. There isn’t a rental car to be had.”

Although attendance has dropped for the last few events, and Fort McMurray is no longer seeing new large-scale oilsands plants being built, Scott said there’s still a lot of interest in the conference.

“What we have to remember is there are still more than two million barrels of oilsands being produced,” Scott said. “And that’s a significant investment for the operators up here.”

Balls of bitumen6:08

This year’s event features a session with United Conservative Party leadership candidate and local MLA Brian Jean, as well as panels on hiring trends, in-demand skills in a changing sector and the importance of collaborating with Indigenous communities. 

Follow David Thurton, CBC’s Fort McMurray correspondent, on FacebookTwitter or contact him via email.

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