By Andrew Mitchell
Organizers have always known that events are big business for Whistler, but until recently nobody knew exactly how big.
Last week Tourism Whistler and Whistler-Blackcomb released an economic impact study for the annual Telus Telus World Ski and Snowboard Festival, less than two weeks after the Mountain Bike Tourism Association released an economic impact study that also looked at the Crankworx Freeride Mountain Bike Festival.
According to the latest report, the TWSSF generated a total of $37.7 million in economic activity for B.C. this past April, including $21.3 million in economic activity in Whistler — $15.7 million of which is direct spending in the resort.
“We’ve always known the festival was important to Whistler, but as this report demonstrates, the benefits stretch well beyond Whistler’s peaks to the rest of the province as well,” said Arlene Schieven, VP of marketing for Tourism Whistler.
The Telus Telus World Ski and Snowboard Festival Economic Impact Assessment was put together by Paradigm Consulting Group using the same tourism economic assessment model created by the Canadian Sport Tourism Alliance — also used to gauge the economic impact of mountain bike tourism in the Sea to Sky corridor and the Crankworx Festival.
According to the assessment, 28,118 hotel room nights were sold during the Telus World Ski and Snowboard Festival, 86 per cent of which were booked by people attending the festival. The festival itself included more than 50 free concerts, 164 live musical performances, 240 athletes, 350 athletes, and contributions of over 700 artists and performers.
The 2007 TWSSF, which takes place April 13-22, is already in development under the management of Sue Eckersley, who took over the festival last year after the departure of founder Doug Perry.
According to the Western Canada Mountain Bike Tourism Association (MBTA) economic study, Crankworx attracted roughly 55,000 non-residents to the resort over nine days, generating expenditures of roughly $11.5 million.
Together with the TWSSF, that represents almost $33 million in revenues last year from those two events alone.
And while they are Whistler’s largest events, they only represent the tip of the iceberg for the resort. Other resort-specific events, such as Cornucopia, the Whistler Film Festival, and WinterPride (gay ski week), bring tens of thousands of visitors to the resort each year, generating additional millions in revenues.
Shauna Hardy Mishaw, the director of the Whistler Film Festival, says they have not had the opportunity or resources to do a comprehensive study like the TWSSF or MTBA, but according to their own assessments their event is getting bigger and better every year.