North Okanagan tourism cashes in

Annual Funtastic Slo-Pitch Tournament adds revenue to North Okanagan community.

Last weekend was certainly Funtastic. After a cool, wet spring it was just what Vernon needed to shake off the gloom and let loose.

The Funtastic Slo-Pitch Tournament hosts 300 teams in the three north Okanagan communities of Vernon, Armstrong and Enderby. More than 4,500 players, with an additional 1,500 family members, showed up to play and party for the holiday weekend.

2012 marked the tourney’s 28th anniversary, and to date, Funtastic is Canada’s largest slo-pitch tournament and music festival. The Funtastic Lawn Bowling Tournament, hosted at Polson Park by the Vernon Lawn Bowling Club, also attracts a significant contingent of visitors to our area.

According to the Canadian Sport Tourism Alliances’ STEAM model of the valuation of economic benefits of sporting events, Funtastic injects more than $4.5 million annually directly into the economy. There is another $2.5 million in indirect economic impact as those monies are re-distributed throughout the community.

In a quick survey of randomly chosen businesses in Vernon, the financial effects provide a much-needed shot in the arm. The weather has had a generally negative effect on tourism so far this year, so hotels and motels were happily reporting that they were operating fairly close to capacity, with some sold out nights last weekend.

This was about the same as last year. For the most part, hoteliers also noted that ball teams this year were relatively well behaved, though there were a few incidents.

Fast food outlets were major benefactors with noticeable sales increases in franchises throughout the region. In Vernon, A&W Restaurants noted a 30 per cent increase in sales from the previous weekend.

Liquor sales from private retail outlets showed some increases over last year, with an interesting side note that liquor delivery services were very popular. Some people are apparently starting to take more responsibility in their choice to not drink and drive.

Retailers downtown were a little bedeviled by the weather this year. The shops that normally sell fun food, treats and impulse products missed the usual sales as foot traffic was down over this year’s weekend.

The next big event rolling into town will be the newly reinvented Sturgis North 2012 Motorcycle Rally Trade Show and Music Festival, July 18 to 22, at Motoplex Speedway and Event Park in Spallumcheen. Advanced bookings at hotels are showing a promising trend for this so far.

George Duffy is the general manager of the Greater Vernon Chamber of Commerce.