B.C. Games catalyst for sport tourism

The BC Winter and BC Summer Games were demonstrating the valuable impact of sport events long before sports tourism was around.

Since 1978, the BC Winter and BC Summer Games have been hosted in 38 different communities around the province. The BC Games have become part of the historical record of communities and for many, an honour and experience that has inspired them to build a vibrant sport tourism industry.

Long before sport tourism was identified as an important part of the tourism industry, the BC Winter and BC Summer Games were demonstrating the valuable impact of sport events. Besides the obvious economic benefits ($1.8 million to $2.6 million), the BC Games bring a community together, train leaders, and create exposure and recognition opportunities.

Sport tourism is growing at a consistently strong rate, despite the trends that have shown a declining tourism industry in recent years. According to the Canadian Sport Tourism Alliance, spending associated with sport tourism in Canada reached $3.6 billion in 2010, an 8.8 per cent increase in two years. This continues sport tourism’s trend of being one of the fastest growing industry segments within Canada’s tourism industry.

The number of B.C. communities becoming active in sport tourism continues to grow. The BC Games Society and Tourism BC co-manage the HostingBC.ca website which provides a sport hosting portfolio for B.C. sport hosting destinations, including an inventory of sport facilities, sport hosting experience, photo galleries, maps, technical venue information, support services, and key contacts.

“Strategically, hosting sport events can bring economic value, social benefits and civic pride to a community. Some of these benefits occur at the time of the event, and others are legacies that return value to the community over many years,” said Laura Plant, Manager of Community Partnerships with Tourism BC, a division of the Ministry of Jobs, Tourism and Innovation.

The City of Kamloops hosted the very first BC Winter Games in 1979, which was a defining moment for the community. Up to that point, Kamloops had struggled with a clear identity and the BC Games brought the community together in a way that was a catalyst for Kamloops to become “Canada’s Tournament Capital” and a leader in sport tourism initiatives.

“Hosting the BC Winter Games really started Kamloops’ interest in sport tourism. The community was engaged and inspired and we have seen that continue through the countless events we have hosted since,” said Sean Smith, Kamloops Tournament Capital Coordinator. “Another important benefit for the community is the volunteer skills that are developed with individuals making a greater and greater difference with every event.”

The 2012 BC Summer Games will take place in Surrey, July 19 to 22. Tourism Surrey and the City of Surrey recently developed and implemented a new sport tourism strategy with the purpose of attracting sport events and increase visitation to Surrey. The strategy includes plans for facility upgrades, as well as support for sport event organizers bringing events to the City.

“To advance Surrey’s Sport Tourism Strategy, Sport Surrey, a partnership between the City of Surrey and Tourism Surrey, was created to increase sport tourism, recognizing the importance of generating economic benefits and contributing to sport development,” said Councillor Linda Hepner, Chair of the City’s Parks, Recreation & Sport Tourism Committee. “Hosting the BC Summer Games in 2012 will allow Surrey to showcase our award-winning facilities and our ability to host major sporting events.”

Athletes, coaches, officials, and volunteers at the BC Summer Games will be treated to warm hospitality, tremendous facilities, and a strong sense of pride from the City of Surrey. The Games will most certainly be a catalyst for Surrey and future host communities to continue to capitalize on sport tourism and host outstanding sport events.