Last weekend, more than 2,500 riders braved the searing South Okanagan heat to ride in the second annual Granfondo Axel Merckx Okanagan. Along with their bicycles they brought with them support crews, fans and — most importantly for the local economy — tourist dollars.
Penticton & Wine Country Tourism still calculating the extent of the economic boost for the South Okanagan, but chief executive officer Jessie Campbell said this Granfondo should have a greater impact than the 2011 event. Last year, spending by spectators, participants and event organizers totalled more than $1.9 million.
With 500 more riders and several hundred more fans — an increase of almost 20 per cent over last year — the region and its businesses expect to see a significant economic spinoff. The Granfondo’s title sponsor, Valley First said there is more than just economic benefit.
“We thought last year’s Granfondo was amazing, but this year’s was even better,” says Valley First president Paulette Rennie. “I couldn’t be more pleased with the way the Granfondo showcases our little slice of paradise, supports our region and attracts such tremendous investment. What better advertisement for the South Okanagan can you get?”
Penticton Mayor Dan Ashton also acknowledges the value the Granfondo brings to Penticton.
“Penticton has a history of delivering successful sports tourism events enjoyed by visitors, participants and residents alike,” said Ashton. “Events like the Granfondo are exceptionally valuable to the community. It generates significant economic activity while showcasing great local businesses, unique products and quality services.”
WIth a looping 160 kilometre Granfondo course, Penticton isn’t the only community that benefits from the exposure created by this event. Summerland, Okanagan Falls, Kaleden and Oliver were also in line to recieve a significant economic boost from the influx of visitors.
“Events like this have a huge economic benefit in the South Okanagan, including Oliver,” said Town of Oliver Mayor Ron Hovanes. “Our bed and breakfasts and motels are always full and we get the opportunity to introduce our area to such a broad range of people. These are tremendous benefits we do not take it for granted, but use to showcase our region with the hope our visitors will return again.”
The granfondo has additional community benefits as the event again supported Valley First’s signature cause, Feed the Valley. Like last year, leftover race supplies and recyclables will be donated to Feed the Valley. The event also benefits the Axel Merckx Youth Development Foundation, a not-for-profit initiative aimed to help develop young cyclists in Canada.