The furor over my blog, questioning the economic impact of the Children’s Games, continues to have legs. One ironic by-product of the Windsor Star story on the front page highlighting Mayor Eddie Francis’s issues with the blog has been a dramatic increase in traffic on my site.
Before the mayor’s letter, and the Star’s reporting of it, the site was experiencing 4 – 10 unique hits per day. Since the letter was published, as of Sept. 19th, I have been averaging 600 unique hits per day, for a total of 1,238.
This is a good thing for my blog site, but more importantly for the community at large since it has generated a much broader and healthy conversation on the value of the event to taxpayers, particularly in light of the $9.4-million FINA Games looming on the horizon in 2016.
Other media have since jumped into the act with a higher level of scrutiny, notably CBC. Below is a news item entitled, “International Children’s Games’ economic impact questioned” posted on the CBC website where some tough question are raised.
Used with permission.
It could be weeks, even years, before it’s known whether the City of Windsor will get a return on the $900,000 of taxpayers’ money it paid to host the International Children’s Games.
The games wrapped up in mid-August, but there’s still no proof the games were worth the investment and the hype.
Mayor Eddie Francis insists the games put Windsor on the map but it will be at least four weeks – if at all – before a final financial report is tabled.
Francis said Tourism Windsor Essex Pelee Island is conducted an economic study of the games and their impact.
Tourism president Gordon Orr said he doesn’t think an economic study was being done.
‘There is no value you can place in terms of the brand recognition.’- Windsor Mayor Eddie Francis
But Francis said he absolutely stands by the fact that Windsor will benefit.
“From an economic perspective, there is no value you can place in terms of the brand recognition for the fact that people visited the city and left with a memorable experience,” Francis said. “Their local media back home reported about their experience back in Windsor. For most, that was the first time they’ve ever experienced the city or been to the city
Although not scientific, CBC Windsor did a Google News search for the terms “International Children’s Games” and “Windsor”.
That returned 207 results in English media, most based in Windsor.
The games were mentioned in two newspapers from the U.K. and one from each of Croatia, Australia and Michigan.
A similar search in other languages, French German, Russian and others, through Google Translate yielded no results.
Independent study called for
Coun. Alan Halberstadt is skeptical the games will have a significant financial impact.
“From a social value, it was a great social event in Windsor. The economic benefit remains to be seen,” Halberstadt said.
He wants an independent economic study conducted.
“When we expend $1.7 million of public money and we say there’s a $6- million economic benefit I think there should be proof in the pudding,” Halberstadt said. “Let’s see it in black and white.”
Marijke Taks, a University of Windsor professor of kinesiology who studies the socio-economic aspects of sport and sport consumer behaviour, declined to do an economic impact study.
She said she has attempted to do economic cost-benefit studies of these types of events in the past and found there was no economic benefit.
In recent years, she’s decided to look at the social impact, asking whether people had fun, what their opinions of the city were, etc.
Taks told CBC Windsor events like the children’s games don’t leave much of a sustainable economic effect on a city.
Francis, though, insists the games “bring people to your city that otherwise perhaps would have no reason to visit and I think the ICG clearly demonstrated that.”
He may be right
Tourism Windsor-Essex Pelee Island said there is “no doubt” businesses saw a spike over those few days of games.
‘They love our brands’
Windsor Crossing general manager Colleen Conlin said some businesses suggest they benefited from the games.
Conlin said while she can’t say for sure whether or not their visits resulted in increased sales, traffic was definitely up during the games and there were many people walking around sporting team uniforms.
Conlin said European teams “love our brands” especially Coach, Tommy, Hugo and the sport stores Adidas and Reebok were also busy at Windsor Crossing.
She said sales numbers for the month will be available next week.
According to Orr, the occupancy rate for the month of August. 2013 was up 6 per cent over last August. He said he can’t attribute all of that to the games, but said the stats for July 2013 were on par with last year.
He also said the average cost for a hotel room this August in Windsor was up $2 over last year.
Francis said the games are just one piece in a sports tourism puzzle the city is trying to piece together.
“The events allows us to put together a cluster, a resume, if you will, to go after other events,” he said. “All this is part of a very lucrative sports tourism market in the billions of dollars.”