A tsunami of brightly coloured spandex rolled up the Sea to Sky highway to Whistler last weekend, bringing with it a healthy dollop of economic prosperity. The second annual RBC GranFondo Whistler bike race started in downtown Vancouver on Saturday, September 10, ending later that day some 120-kilometres north of the city in a show of athleticism, community spirits and good, old-fashioned spending.
"The GranFondo weekend now is looking like it's on par with last year so we did see the number of participants grow, the bookings currently look like they were similar to last year, but when you look at the impact of this event compared to the same weekend pre-GranFondo, there's a significant bump in the range of about 35 per cent," said Breton Murphy, senior manager of communications for Tourism Whistler (TW).
This year, 7,000 riders participated in the sold-out event, bringing friends, partners and families along for support. The result was a bustling weekend for the resort community at a time where sales would typically be falling after the busy summer season.
"September we are generally entering into more of a shoulder period. But to see a bump like that on a weekend within our summer period in the range of 35 per cent is a real benefit," said Murphy. "When we asked some of our members what they were seeing over the weekend, anecdotally there is no doubt that for many of the properties they were seeing that their occupancy and room bookings were directly impacted by GranFondo in a very positive way."
Hotels across Whistler, including the Aava, the Listel and the Fairmont Chateau Whistler were at capacity on Friday and Saturday nights, with all noting higher-than-normal bookings on Sunday as well.
"It was an excellent event and a very busy weekend in Whistler as well and we were happy to see the numbers for the weekend," said Jennifer Tice, communications manager for the Chateau. "The numbers were definitely very strong compared to other years. We had about 200 bikes in storage here related to the GranFondo - so we set up one of our ballrooms for special storage this weekend because obviously due to the value of the bikes coming in we wanted to provide a more secure indoor storage for our guests."
Whistler Mayor Ken Melamed participated in the ride for the second time last Saturday. He was complimentary of the race's organization and spoke candidly about the municipality's ability to capitalize on the potential market associated with the burgeoning road biking set.
"To some degree I think it might have taken some of us by surprise to see how fast people are coming into this sport - it's not a new sport, of course, but you could call it newer to us," he said. "There's a tremendous interest in road cycling, we already have a really strong product in mountain biking and recreational cycling, this just adds a new component."