Updated Sea to Sky mountain bike tourism numbers released at symposium 

Region saw huge increase over last decade

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REVELSTOKE – Though some of its component numbers had been previously released, the Western Canada Mountain Bike Tourism Association (MBTA) presented its complete picture of the sport's economic impact in the Sea to Sky corridor at its symposium in Revelstoke last week.

MBTA executive director Martin Littlejohn and MBTA co-founder and market research consultant Donna Green presented their 2016 findings in one of the two-day conference's final talks on Sept. 15.

The study sought to update the 2006 findings as the sport has grown in leaps and bounds.

"We wanted to revisit that (study) to see what the growth had been like and what had changed," Littlejohn said during his presentation.

For the first time the overall statistics across the region (as opposed to just Whistler) were released showing they had increased dramatically, as the total number of rides in all communities rose from just over 210,000 to 1.2 million while visitor expenditures rose from $31.7 million to $70.6 million. The number of mountain-bike-tourism-supported jobs more than doubled from 309 to 687 and wages rose from $16.1 million to $35.8 million. Lastly, tax revenue increased from $8.3 million to $18.6 million.

Green noted North Shore ridership was up over 600 per cent, and when presenting that statistic to the District of North Vancouver, was told the estimate might even be low. Spending was also estimated to be up about 600 per cent to just over $12 million.

Squamish, meanwhile, saw an increase in American and international visitors with the number of same-day riders doubling and the number of overnight riders increasing sixfold. Spending was also up about 330 per cent to over $9.8 million.

With this being the first time Pemberton was included, no comparables were available, though the economic impact was roughly $965,000.

Green noted the bulk of those interviewed were local (from Pemberton, Whistler or Squamish) and Pemberton was still a "hidden destination" in terms of tourism.

Here in Whistler the report showed that bike-park spending rose by about $10 million to just over $26 million while cross-country spending was up from $6.6 million to over $20 million to reach over $46 million in visitor spending in total.

In all the local surveys aside from Whistler, local riders were asked about the importance of their community's trails to them when deciding where to live. Over 80 per cent of Squamish riders said it was important, compared to 65 per cent of those on the North Shore and 56 per cent of those in Pemberton.

Littlejohn noted that since 2006, trail networks have expanded, as has funding and marketing for trail development, while local clubs have also grown. As well, the Crown land trail authorization process was introduced in 2007 and the provincial mountain bike tourism strategy was developed in 2008.

As a result of the study, Littlejohn is encouraging stakeholders to "advocate for greater publicly funded trail development and maintenance," while also opening doors for more recognition and partnerships with the tourism industry.

"B.C. is one of the most important mountain biking destinations in the world, but there is still a lot of opportunity to make us the No. 1 destination for mountain biking," he said.

For more on the symposium, see the Oct. 5 edition of

Pique for a feature story.

More information is available at www.mbta.ca.

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