Ironman Canada had positive financial impact 

Event generated $8.4 million in economic activity for Whistler

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Ironman Canada generated $8.4 million in local economic activity in its inaugural year in Whistler according to a just released economic impact report.

Although the event just took place in August, the economic impact figures were released this week. However, the economic impacts of other events studied in 2013 are still not available.

Ironman resulted in $17.3 million of economic activity in B.C., including $3.2 million in provincial and federal taxes.

But where Whistler felt the impacts of Ironman in the millions of dollars, Pemberton saw just $140,000 in spending, supporting $212,000 of local economic activity.

Pemberton officials are still working out what the report signifies to the community.

"There's more to the conversation to be had. We don't want to be pessimists in there, but we need to understand what the real impacts are to this community, while also wanting to support the fact that a lot of (Pemberton residents) work in Whistler, which is great — it's definitely trickle-down employment through to us. But we have to look at (the impact to) our anchor businesses, of which we have few in the valley," said chief administrative officer Daniel Sailland after the regular council meeting Tuesday, Dec. 3.

The village is hoping to give a response to the province on its appetite for Ironman's return in January. But Whistler is whole-heartedly in support.

The event generated $7 million of spending in Whistler, which supported the $8.4 million of local economic activity.

The RMOW contributed $250,000 to the event from Resort Municipality Initiative (RMI) funding, part of a five-year annual deal with Ironman for augmentation funding, one of nine events to be boosted with this funding. Tourism Whistler kicked in a further $45,000.

"The Resort Municipality of Whistler is very pleased to see the excellent return on investment confirmed in the economic impact assessment," said Mayor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden in a release on the numbers this week. "Whistler absolutely embraced the event and the overall experience, and the results for our community are outstanding."

The statistics come out of an economic impact assessment (EIA), one of eight this year, paid for by the Resort Municipality of Whistler (RMOW) and done by Ottawa-based Canadian Sport Tourism Alliance.

This is the third EIA release of a 2013 event, coming on the heels of the Tough Mudder numbers — first withheld from the public then later released following repeated requests from Pique — and the earlier WinterPRIDE numbers, released by the event organizer.

When asked about the unfinished EIA's for the Luge World Championships, the Whistler Cup, the Children's Art Festival and Wanderlust, all of which took place before Ironman — in some cases several months before — the RMOW's communications manager Michele Comeau explained:

"There are a number of pieces that must come together to complete an economic impact assessment (EIA) including information from the event producer, post-event research with attendees, and time to conduct and schedule the work by Tourism Whistler and the Canadian Sport Tourism Alliance and others involved... each EIA has a unique timeline."

Those four, she added, are near completion.

The Ironman numbers drive home the economic boon of hosting that event.

The spin-off impact in Whistler is double the weekend-long Tough Mudder event ($4.2 million in Whistler), and the week-long WinterPRIDE event ($4.8 million in Whistler).

Spending associated with the Canadian sport tourism industry reached $3.6 billion in 2010, an increase of 8.8 per cent from 2008, based on Statistics Canada data commissioned by the Canadian Sport Tourism Alliance. This highlights sport tourism's trend of being one of the fastest growing industry segments within Canada's tourism industry.

"We are extremely happy with the results of our first event in Whistler," said World Triathlon Corporation (WTC) Operations Manager Keats McGonigal. "The athletes and staff loved the event and view the region as an extremely attractive vacation destination. There is strong support for building on the success to make this a long-term home for IRONMAN Canada."

-With files by Eric MacKenzie


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