Edmonton tourism on the rebound thanks to major sporting events garnering $73 million in economic benefits

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A focus on attracting major sporting events to Edmonton has helped the city’s tourism industry rebound significantly in 2021.

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Three major events in Edmonton this year have a projected direct economic impact of $73 million alone, a 356 per cent increase from the $16 million generated from a few events held in 2020.

Newly-appointed Explore Edmonton Corporation CEO Traci Bednard said as the city recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic, sporting events can play a key role in providing trickle down support to Edmonton’s economy, including small businesses, restaurants and hotels.

“They’ve supported a lot of small businesses. The impacts of tourism create jobs and allow hotels, restaurants and shop owners to benefit from this kind of sporting event,” she said in an interview with Postmedia, noting the success of Edmonton’s ability to host major events is through a collaborative partnership with several organizations involved in event attraction. “Having that collective approach to be able to attract those key events and then also produce them in a way that’s exceptional will really continue our legacy of excellence in sports events.”

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Two FIFA World Cup qualifying games hosted at Commonwealth Stadium in November contributed about $30 million to the city’s economy, Bednard said, including about 12,000 hotel rooms booked each night. Hosting the upcoming IIHF World Junior Hockey Championships, Bednard is projecting an additional $30-million investment in the economy and the World Rugby Sevens Series in the summer provided $13 million. In total, Explore Edmonton is projecting $88.5 million in direct economic impact from sport and cultural events in 2021.

Not only do the major sporting events provide an economic impact on their own, Bednard said they put Edmonton on the sports map and help attract smaller community tournaments.

“They may not have the global visibility, but they are also drivers of economic value into our region, like volleyball and dodgeball tournaments,” she said.

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Hotels have also benefitted from the events, seeing an increase in usage compared to 2020, including a 21.6 per cent increase in August alone. Edmonton’s 2021 occupancy rate was 32.7 per cent as of the end of September, up 2.4 per cent from 2020, according to Alberta Tourism data.

Edmonton Destination Marketing Hotels executive director Peter Ogilvie said the summer showed positive signs of recovery with more events in the city drawing people to hotels. He said he’s not sure of what next year will bring, especially with the growth of the new Omicron variant of COVID-19, but said the hotel organization will continue to work with Explore Edmonton and other partners to draw events to the city.

“Certainly our sector is moving in a slow but positive direction. By no means are we stable nor anywhere near the level that we were pre-pandemic,” Ogilvie said. “We’re cautiously optimistic and we’ve been progressing forward from a positive summer that was up from 2020.”

Moving into 2022, Bednard said it will be difficult to predict what the new year will have in store in terms of tourism, but said Explore Edmonton will continue to promote the city’s ability to host sports events as well as business conferences in the Expo Centre and Edmonton Convention Centre. One of the main goals will be working to secure Edmonton as a host city for the 2026 FIFA World Cup, with an announcement expected in the first half of next year.

duscook@postmedia.com

twitter.com/dustin_cook3 

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