Edmonton becoming national leader in sport tourism

EDMONTON – While overall tourism has slightly declined in Canada over the past several years, sport tourism is on the rise. And Edmonton has quickly surged to the front of the pack when it comes to top destinations for sporting events.

“Edmonton is and has been a leader for many years,” said Grant MacDonald, Chair of the Canadian Sport Tourism Alliance.

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Edmonton will play host to a number of major sporting events over the next few years, including the 2015 and 2016 Canadian Track and Field Championships, and several games in next year’s FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup of Soccer.

In addition, Edmonton has thrown its hat into the bidding race for the 2022 Commonwealth Games. And as announced Tuesday, Edmonton will become the first city in western Canada to host the Red Bull Crashed Ice Tour.

READ MORE: Red Bull Crashed Ice Tour coming to Edmonton

“These are events that are viewed worldwide. And these are key tourism markets for Alberta and for Edmonton, you know, places like the U.K. and Germany and Europe and Asia,” Minister of Tourism, Parks and Recreation Richard Starke said Tuesday at the Crashed Ice announcement.

The fact that these major sporting events are choosing Edmonton as a host city is no coincidence; it’s all part of a decade-old strategy focused on bringing these types of events to the city.

“We’re starting to see that things are coming to fruition from the development of this strategy,” said Lindsay Harrison with Edmonton Events.

“It speaks to the confidence of our city of being a great host and building that reputation that we have the capacity to hold these international events,” added Ward 12 City Councillor Amarjeet Sohi.

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Between 2008 and 2010, sport tourism in Canada grew by eight per cent, making it a $3.6 billion industry.

With Edmonton being a leader in sport tourism, it means good things for the city’s economy. But beyond that, it also puts Edmonton on the map, attracting much more than just sports fans.

“I think it gets people inspired, gets people excited about the city. It’s important to the city as a whole, as a destination,” said Harrison. “It builds our image and reputation, as well.”

“All of those events, in addition to leaving a legacy of new infrastructure, they’re also engaging communities and getting people involved,” added MacDonald “It really is about creating an event culture and a welcoming culture so that we are attracting new visitors. But when they get here, we’re turning them into repeat guests, as well.

“The sport event is the start of that continuum, not the end.”

Watch below: Gord Steinke speaks with Brad Ferguson about Edmonton’s growth when it comes to sport tourism

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With files from Fletcher Kent, Global News.