New Sport Tourism Strategy Approved in Nanaimo – Nanaimo News Bulletin

The port city has implemented a strategy to try to become a tournament capital and a city of champions.

Nanaimo City Council approved a sports tourism strategy as a civic guiding document this spring.

The strategy emphasizes continued support for Nanaimo’s “grassroots” sports while identifying new areas of interest, and “aims to provide a realistic sports tourism strategy suited to the region’s current economic and political climate” , noted a staff report.

The project was led by the Nanaimo Hospitality Association in partnership with the city and Tourism Nanaimo. The NHA, the city and the city’s new Tourism Nanaimo Society “will work closely together to implement the plan,” according to a news release.

“We hope this will help new tourism [society] but also many community groups and organizations to identify opportunities to bring sports tourism to the community,” said Richard Harding, the city’s general manager of parks, recreation and culture.

Jacquelyn Novak, CEO of Toa Consulting, presented the strategy to city council and said Nanaimo had had “really fantastic” sports tourism strategies in the past.

“What I think is different about this round is that there’s a vision behind it – having all of these action items in place for what needs to be in place to be successful with sport tourism,” a- she declared.

The strategy suggests that Nanaimo already has a solid base to host, attract and support tournaments and competitions in hockey, soccer, baseball, softball, lacrosse, basketball, volleyball and water sports.

Determining focus areas will depend on Nanaimo’s “brand,” available venues and level of interest from sports organizations, Novak said, noting that some sports volunteer bases are tapped. More than two-thirds of Nanaimo sports organizations that were consulted indicated that they were interested in hosting provincial-level competitions and one-quarter were interested in hosting national-level events.

Some of the focus areas of the new sport tourism strategy relate to Aboriginal sport, various types of cycling competitions, paddle sports, adaptive and para-sport events, individual and small team sports, and sport administration. Other facets include the ability to take advantage of Nanaimo’s geographic location to benefit from spillovers from Vancouver and Victoria, and opportunities to host athletes and teams who acclimatize to the region prior to competitions.

Among new focus areas, Novak said sports affairs, such as meetings and coaching conferences, could be a “quick win” with the fewest hurdles to implementation. She said the continuation of cycling events and individual and small sporting events like curling, badminton, fencing, combat sports, archery, weightlifting and crossfit could also take place immediately.

Canoeing competitions would be seen more as a medium-term goal, she said, due to the lack of facilities, and she suggested Indigenous sports would require more investment and programming, but are seen as a “must-do” in the sports tourism strategy.

Novak said Nanaimo’s geography creates a natural fit with adaptive and parasport opportunities.

“We are one of the few places in Canada that can accommodate wheelchair users almost year-round,” she said. “There is still work to be done – there is always some in every community – but [we’re] really excited about the improvements, investments and commitment this community has made to accessibility and inclusiveness and we want to reflect that in the sports and events we offer.

The sport tourism strategy was presented as part of a series of discussions on how to get “head to bed” in Nanaimo.

“Sports tourism is so much more than that,” Novak said. “I’ve mentioned youth sports and youth recreation, and health and wellness, but it helps provide a much longer and lasting legacy around recreation facilities for local citizens.”

The Board unanimously approved the strategy. No budget was attached to the document as staff indicated that “implementation will take place over time and will require the involvement of many stakeholders and organizations.”

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