Thursday, June 21, 2007

Sea to Sky Mountain Biking Economic Impact Study

About 6 months ago, I blogged about the Yukon Study about the economic potential of mountain bike tourism. That study analyzed the potential and demographics of the global mountain bike tourism market. It was a great document which used market research to identify the mountain bike tourist and contained case studies of communities which embraced mountain bike tourism. It was a great document to introduce a community to the potential of mountain bike tourism and want to know more about the market.

Earlier this year the Western Canada Mountain Bike Tourism Association (MBTA) released a study which illustrates the economic benefits of a mature mountain bike tourism industry. This study complements the Yukon study in that it shows the economic results for Whistler, BC - a community which embraced mountain bike tourism.

The economic impact study gives credible data on the economic benefits of mountain bike tourism. The executive summary states (all numbers in Canadian dollars (1 US$ = 0.93 CD$) ):

"Total visitor spending in Whistler attributable to mountain biking exceeded $34.3 million over the period June 4 to September 17, 2006 supporting an estimated $39.1 million in new economic activity (GDP)."

Not a bad summer season! Whistler continues to be a positive draw of the global mountain bike tourism market. This study discusses the survey methodology, breaks down visitor origin, size of the party, number of nights stayed and spending per visitor. The benefits of out of town visitors to a community can not be overstated:

"The study found that mountain biking draws visitors to Sea to Sky communities and generates significant overnight stays. Overall, 20% of non-resident riders stayed overnight in Sea to Sky communities, staying an average of 4.8 nights and having an average party size of 2.8 people."

It emphasizes the need for authorized trails in order for the tourism economy to succeed:

"The authorized trail system in the Whistler Valley generates considerably more economic activity than the trail systems in Squamish and the North Shore where few authorized trails exist. Whistler has been able to capture higher visitor expenditure in part by having the ability to promote its municipal trails and associated services (bike rentals, guides, camps, etc) directly to visitors both within the Resort and externally."

The bottom line of the study is something that should please local business and government:

"In total, mountain biking has a sizable impact on the summer economy of Whistler and British Columbia, with total expenditures totaling more than $34.3 million between the valley trails, the Bike Park, and Crankworx. This spending generated more than $39.1 million in economic activity, and supported more than $26.5 million in wages and salaries and 798 jobs throughout the Province. Mountain biking in Whistler also supported considerable tax revenues, with over $8.5 million and $7.3 million in government taxes paid at the federal and provincial levels, respectively; while municipal revenues throughout the province exceeded $2.1 million."

These numbers only shows the direct economic impact of tourism. However, I'm sure there are further benefits to the BC bike industry due to the world class mystique of the free ride style of riding. Rocky Mountain, Norco, Cove Bikes and Brody have probably benefited from being part of the BC bike culture which exploding onto the public consciousness around 1998. Many visitors were introduced to the local bikes and may consider taking a bit of BC's finest back with them.

10-15 years ago I lived in Vancouver and rode the Whistler and North Shore trail systems when they were unauthorized. Back then only the locals rode the trails and there were very few tourists (friends of friends). In 10 years, revenue from mountain bike tourism in the Sea to Sky area has gone from immeasurable to CD$39 million.

These are impressive numbers and I really believe that Santa Cruz County has the potential to realize a similar level of mountain bike tourism economic activity.

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