Academic conference to boost bottom line for tourism in Victoria

Congress 2013 at UVic should give Victoria’s anemic tourism industry a healthy shot in the arm for 2013

The Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences – known as Congress – should give Victoria’s anemic tourism industry a healthy shot in the arm for 2013.

The University of Victoria’s 1,700 residences are fully booked and the conference’s 15 partner hotels downtown have sold 5,820 room nights so far.

Suzanne Dane, Congress project manager for UVic, said based on Tourism Victoria estimates on spending habits for visitors, Congress should generate $9 million to $12 million for the local economy.

Unlike university students who flood the city each September, Congress delegates “have the income to spend on food and they’ll actually eat three meals a day,” Dane said. “A large number come with their families and stay pre- and post-Congress.”

Dallas Gislason, economic development officer for the Greater Victoria Development Agency, said Victoria needs to highlight its assets to visiting academics and their families to reap long-term rewards.

“For me this is an exciting opportunity for the community to go far beyond tourism,” Gislason said. “We can look at the impact of 9,000 guests, some 7,000 delegates with taxis, hotels and meals … but that is the tip of the iceberg.”

The Congress itself is made up of more than 70 individual academic associations, which creates an opportunity to entice each association to return to Victoria for individual annual conferences, he said.

It’s also an chance to show visiting academics a city where they might like to teach, retire or live during a sabbatical.

“We’ve got 7,000 highly educated people coming to the community,” Gislason said. “The opportunity is to show off a region that is livable with educated, engaged citizens.”

While UVic is trying to draw the public to events on campus during Congress, it is setting up incentives for delegates to check  out restaurants, businesses and tourism highlights.

“Delegates will be given discount tickets for destinations like the Royal B.C. Museum and Butchart Gardens,” Dane said. “We want people to experience Victoria.”

editor@saanichnews.com