Brandon First recently had the opportunity to talk to Brandon’s Director of Economic Development, Sandy Trudel, to get her insight into why Event Tourism, Brandon First’s role in it, and the city’s Event Hosting Grant program are so important to our growing economy. One of the basic tenets of economic development is simple: bring in more money from outside the community with the intent that it stays in and circulates within that community. Where Brandon excels specifically in this is in the area of Event Tourism; that is, tourists who come to Brandon specifically to attend a certain event whether that be sport, agriculture, meeting or convention.

Regarding the Importance of Event Tourism:
Event tourism compared to other segments of the tourism market generates the greatest level of economic return for a host community*. Fortunately, event hosting is an area of strength for Brandon. People who come to Brandon for an event are spending money in the city that otherwise would not be spent here. Those new dollars circulate throughout many businesses; creating jobs, supporting investment and growth of existing businesses and creating new opportunities, benefitting the economy as a whole. For this reason, Event Tourism is one of the pillars of growth contained in Brandon’s economic development strategy.
(*according to the latest available research from the Canadian Sport Tourism Alliance, event tourists spend on average twice as much on a trip than general overnight leisure travelers and four times as much as leisure day trippers)

Brandon’s Best Event Hosting Features:
Brandon has many strengths. People are one of our greatest strengths. Our volunteer community is simply amazing. I have been told countless times by event attendees that they felt like they were part of Brandon while they were here for whatever event they were attending. This sense of belonging in turn creates a very positive memory of their visit to Brandon, setting us apart from other communities. Brandon is large enough to offer the amenities a visitor desires but small enough that even a small event is big news, raising the profile of the event. The city’s compact size, lack of traffic congestion and the personal connection that exists even between competing businesses makes it easy to host an event in Brandon. An event can have delegates in every single hotel in the city and be no more than ten minutes apart. Another differential Brandon has is our commitment to incenting events to select Brandon. Brandon’s Event Hosting Grant Program made possible by the Accommodation Tax Reserve really sets us apart when competing for events.
We have a personal connection with events that you won’t find in many other centres. As a community we have a sense of ownership of the events we host. We want to know the people, we want to know what matters to the attendees and we want them to know that what is important to them matters to us. We have a good selection of facilities, amazing people who are passionate about Brandon and the experience visitors receive, and who are creative with ideas and solutions. Lastly, we are proud of our hosting abilities, so proud, and not scared to tackle events that on the surface may seem too large for Brandon.

Some of the Most Memorable Event Hosting Moments:
The big events always remain top of mind; the Wally Byam Caravan Rally, the Canadian National Arabian and Half Arabian Championship Horse Show, the Brier, the Memorial Cup, Canada Games, etc. But interestingly enough it is sometimes the smaller, more niche, events that stick in one’s brain. Events like music festivals, and the North American Moose Conference and International Moose Symposium. Who knew there was a Moose Conference, let alone an International Symposium? We do. The events are smaller but have a cool factor. Brandon is definitely a sports community, so many of the sporting events stand out.

On Accommodation Tax and Event Hosting Grant Incentives:
In my estimation, during the twenty plus years I have been working in economic development, I have to say the implementation of the Event Hosting Grant Program (funded by the Accommodation Tax collected in Brandon) has probably been the most pivotal tool that we’ve put into the event tourism recruitment tool kit. The Incentive program sends a clear message that Brandon is serious about event tourism and recognizes the economic benefits of the sector. Most importantly though, the program positions Brandon as a competitive host city. It has been awesome to see seasoned event hosts branch out and try organizing totally new events as their risk is lessened by knowing that they have some funding available through the Event Hosting Grant program. The program has proven to be effective in convincing existing organizations, especially sports organizations, to host new events as a means in which to generate revenue for their clubs / groups. The program gives them the incentive to pull together their volunteer pools and chase events in a way we have not seen in the past. Brandon does not have the Niagara Falls of the world to serve as a lure for event attendees, however, the Event Hosting Grant program injects extra money into the event budget allowing organizers to incorporate cool elements into the event to for their attendees that may not be possible otherwise.

Working with Brandon First:
First and foremost, Brandon First’s work aligns with our office’s mandate, that being to generate economic activity for Brandon. As discussed, event tourism generates the highest economic return when compared to other forms of tourism, so we want to support an organization whose sole focus is event tourism. It’s a win all the way around. Contributing to Brandon First’s success also ensures event tourism never falls off Brandon’s radar. Last but not least I love the broad stakeholder interest and support from local businesses and individuals that Brandon First has been able to generate. Working with an ever-changing group of people is energizing and a continual learning process.

Final thoughts:
Event Tourism is an important piece of Brandon’s economy, one that not only brings new money into the community but a sector that also positively contributes to the quality of life of those that live in Brandon. We can all play a role in helping to grow the Event Tourism sector in Brandon. Whether it is through passing leads for events to Brandon First, organizing an event, volunteering for an event or attending an event that is hosted in Brandon. This is truly an economic sector that everyone can participate in.

If you have an idea for a great event that could happen in Brandon, tell us about it! We will help with bid development if required, Event Hosting Grant applications and final reports, provide lists of local businesses willing and eager to do work with events and more. Best of all, Brandon First’s services come at no charge to you. So, contact us today to set up an appointment and see how we can help you Bring YOUR Event to Brandon.