Each year, Sport Tourism Canada hosts Sport Event Congress (SEC), the largest sports tourism gathering in the country. This year, more than 300 people—representing national and provincial sports organizations, event right holders and planners, event management firms, destination tourism professionals, and elected officials—travelled to Winnipeg, MB, to attend the event.

Fostering Relationships

During the three-day event, which I attended alongside the City of Kelowna's Community Development Coordinator, Brad Duquette, we connected with decision-makers of sporting organizations and event planners from across the country. 

SEC 2024
Pictured: Sara Correa Haslehurst, Business Development, Sports & Events, Tourism Kelowna; Brad Duquette, Community Development Coordinator, City of Kelowna. 

As part of the congress, we attended the Sport Events Exchange, meeting face-to-face with 17 national sports organizations and event organizers, including Rugby Canada, Swimming Canada, Aboriginal Sport Circle, Special Olympics Canada, and Diving Canada to discuss specific hosting opportunities. These face-to-face meetings are an important first step in identifying those sporting events that could be hosted in Kelowna. They also help build and maintain strong relationships with the decision-makers at the national level. 

SEC 2024 - Sport Event Exchange

What We Learned

Sport Event Congress is also a conduit for organizations to share their knowledge, best practices, and innovative ideas. Across Canada, different sporting organizations and cities are facing similar challenges and this is a great opportunity for us to come together to discuss ideas and solutions on how to address some of the hurdles. 

The opening plenary was centered on the role and responsibility of sport tourism within the context of truth and reconciliation and discussed the importance of engaging and building a meaningful relationship with our indigenous leaders; which was also a key message during the North American Indigenous Games (NAIG) panel. NAIG, which was held in Nova Scotia in 2023, focused on the importance of centering culture in major events and detailed how they incorporated that sense of place into every aspect of the event; the airport, the venues, the meeting spaces, etc., and the legacy it created. 

The breakout sessions tackled some important and timely topics such as The Impact of Climate Change on Sport Hosting and Sustainability in Sport, as well as the importance of Gender Equity and Representation within the Sports Industry. They shared Best Practices on Bidding and Hosting for large scale events, such as the Canada SailGP (Halifax), World Police and Fire Games (Winnipeg), World Under 17 Hockey Challenge (Charlottetown & Summerside) and the Special Olympics Canada Winter Games (Calgary), and also presented how technology is impacting sport tourism with the session How AI is Changing the Game. 

SEC 2024 - Session

Why is SEC Important?

Sport tourism is a $7.4 billion industry and the fastest-growing segment of the tourism sector. The SEC is organized by Sport Tourism Canada (formerly the Canadian Sports Tourism Alliance), the country's leading organization in sport tourism, which aims to increase Canada's capacity to attract and host sport tourism major events. 

Attending SEC is vital to continue growing Kelowna as a premier sport-hosting destination. Face-to-face meetings with attending NSOs and ERHs, many of which are headquartered in Eastern Canada, strengthen their relationships with Tourism Kelowna and put Kelowna in a position of strength when bidding on major events. 

Major Event Strategy

Securing and supporting major events was formally strategized by Tourism Kelowna in 2016 when its Major Event Strategy was developed as an attraction framework to tap into the growing sport and event tourism industry, further the destination's national exposure, and be a significant driver of overnight visitation and economic activity. In partnership with the City of Kelowna, early successes of the strategy included the 2018 World Mixed Curling Championship and 2019 Skate Canada International. The next major event that Kelowna will host is the 2025 Montana's Brier, with an estimated economic impact of $8 million to $15 million for local businesses. 

For more information on sport tourism, please contact me at (250) 861-1515 ext. 218 or sara@tourismkelowna.com.