Victoria businesses are anticipating a healthy boost as crowds gather for the 2013 Ford World Men’s Curling Championship, which begins Saturday and spans nine days at Save-on-Foods Memorial Centre.
They expect an immediate infusion of cash as curling fans stay in hotels, eat in restaurants and shop. And they also see future benefits from TV broadcasts of the curling championship, which will be beamed across Canada, and to Europe, Japan and China.
Bruce Carter, CEO of the Greater Victoria Chamber of Commerce, said worldwide exposure to Victoria in the spring with blossoms on trees in the sun and shots of the Inner Harbour used as TV stations cut away from the curling action go a long way in selling the city.
“The media exposure that comes with running a world curling championship, that exposure of Victoria as a great place — we always seem to get those shots with the blossoms out while we’re curling and people saying what a great place this is — that has significant value,” he said.
Carter said it will also be a nice bump for the hospitality industry which is used to fairly slim pickings in March and April before the tourist season begins.
“We do pretty well filling hotel rooms in July and August regardless of the economic circumstance, but doing this in the shoulder season is always very welcome,” he said.
Curling championship co-chairman Keith Dagg said early estimates suggest there are 2,600 hotel room nights already booked for players, media and officials to say nothing of fans who may come from across the country and around the world to cheer on their teams.
In 2005, local hotels reported a 20 per cent improvement in occupancy in the month that housed the curling championship.
More than 1,000 of those rooms this year have been booked at the Hotel Grand Pacific, which is transforming its Pacific Lounge into “The Clubhouse” to offer big-screen coverage of draws along with food and drink specials and curling table games.
Hotel manager Reid James said it’s all part of the hotel getting into the spirit and having fun with what will be a huge help to its bottom line.
“This is very significant for us,” said James. He said that in 2005 his hotel felt some of the benefit despite not being a host hotel.
This year, as host to the curling media and some fans, that impact is coming right through his front door and sticking around for a while.
The two largest hotels — Hotel Grand Pacific and Fairmont Empress — are close to full with curling people, so other travellers will need to look elsewhere for rooms, he said. That will benefit other downtown hotels. “And these people will be eating and drinking all over town, and hopefully shopping.”
“It’s fantastic for the city,” said hospitality consultant Frank Bourree of Chemistry Consulting. “We need way more of these types of things.”
Bourree said restaurants and hotels that have struggled over the first two months of this year will get a much-needed boost.
The championship will be held at Save-On-Foods Memorial Centre through to April 7.
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