Tourism runs up score at Challenge

A high-profile sporting event is being attributed as the driver behind an increase in Penticton tourism numbers for an off-season month.

A high-profile sporting event is being attributed as the driver behind an increase in Penticton tourism numbers for an off-season month.

Penticton and Wine Country Tourism and Penticton Economic Development Services said the amount of Additional Hotel Room Tax collected by Penticton accommodators in November was up nearly 30 per cent compared with the same month in 2009. November 2010 was also the highest grossing November since the AHRT was introduced in 2006.

“November is just a taste of things to come hopefully,” said Jonathan Dow, general manager of the Sandman Inn and vice-chair of the Penticton Hospitality Association. “Certainly all the accommodators in town and hospitality representatives are thankful for a month that normally wouldn’t be as busy, and I think we can attribute some of that to the efforts made by council and our sport tourism co-ordinator.”

Dow said some of that increase in November came from Penticton hosting the World Junior A Challenge, but he is also hopeful it is indicative of the economy getting better and consumers being a little bit less cautious with their purse strings.

“Penticton is certainly benefitting from having a strong amateur sport base for minor hockey and high school sports but it is the big events that we need to get more of. Jeff Plant, the sport tourism co-ordinator, is working towards that. And with co-operation from city council members like Andrew Jakubeit, who helped bring the World Junior (Challenge) here, we can see Penticton becoming more and more of a major attraction for both amateur sport as well as provincial, national and international events,” said Dow.

All of this affects the accommodators’ bottom line and has an impact on the community.

“If I am selling more rooms, then that money is going towards housekeepers, for example, so they can feed their families and everyone can work. In a time when it is slow, as long as I have people in my hotel and even if I am coming out even, at least I am giving my employees some work so they can continue to live comfortably and aren’t living on Employment Insurance. We are such a seasonal town, the longer we can keep people in the workforce the better it is for the whole community,” said Dow.

Penticton and Wine Country Tourism and Penticton Economic Development Services said bringing the World Junior A Hockey Challenge to the South Okanagan Events Centre from Nov. 8 to 14 is hopefully just the beginning of hosting high-profile events that will continue to attract visitors.

“This is just another indication of the impact that sport and event tourism can have in our shoulder seasons,” said Coun. Jakubeit, who also sits on the tourism advisory committee. “With a sport tourism co-ordinator now on board, we hope to be able to continue to attract high-level events like the World Junior Challenge and subsequently continue to see our typically slower seasons improve year-over-year.”

Over the course of the World Junior A Challenge, Penticton Economic Development spearheaded an economic impact study of the hockey tournament.

“Understanding the economic value of hosting a sporting tournament such as this gives us a better idea of how these events affect business,” said David Arsenault, economic development officer. “We can quantify the economic results, but it is the intangible results such as international exposure and the indirect spending in our business community that make these events so worthwhile.”

The overall economic impact assessment will be released soon by Hockey Canada.

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