They came, they competed, they cheered, and they left an impact both on our local economy and local skating community that will be felt for years to come.

Over the past week, Kelowna’s hotels, restaurants, cafés, cabs, and tourist attractions were filled with international athletes, coaches, and spectators, many who visited Kelowna for the first time. There was a notable number of international visitors – including a large contingent from Japan – who came to cheer on many of the world’s best figure skaters, including two-time Olympic Gold Medallist, Yuzuru Hanyu, who placed first in the men’s competition this past week.

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Photo courtesy of Shoot the Breeze. Pictured (left to right): Silver Medallist, Nam Nguyen (Canada); Gold Medallist, Yuzuru Hanyu (Japan); Bronze Medallist, Keiji Tanaka (Japan)

The competition draws thousands of spectators and has an economic impact of approximately $5 million, including over 1,800 hotel room nights for athletes, coaches, and event organizers. While the competition spans two days, many of the event participants spend up to a week in the city with practice times, technical meetings, and an exhibition performance to wrap the event.

“Major events like 2019 Skate Canada International bring visitors to Kelowna, including many international visitors and tour groups who are travelling to our destination for the first time,” said Lisanne Ballantyne, President and CEO of Tourism Kelowna. “These visitors come to take part in the sporting events and experience activities and attractions available in the destination. For many, it’s part of being introduced to a new part of Canada and the world, and we hope they enjoyed their time exploring Kelowna and plan a return visit.”

Skate Canada International

Photo courtesy of Shoot the Breeze.

In total, there were 60 athletes from 14 countries competing at 2019 Skate Canada International. This was the second of six ISU Grand Prix of Figure Skating circuit competitions leading up to the 2019-20 final in Turin, Italy. Other international cities hosting competitions include Las Vegas, USA; Grenoble, France; Chongqing, China; Moscow, Russia; and Sapporo, Japan.

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Photo courtesy Shoot the Breeze: Pairs Gold Medallists, Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier (Canada).

The 2019 Skate Canada International featured competitors from Australia, Canada, China, Germany, Great Britain, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Malaysia, Russia, South Korea, Spain, Switzerland, and the United States of America. A large contingent of international media, including broadcast teams from Canada, Japan, and Russia attended the event, which was broadcast on television and the internet. 

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Photo courtesy Shoot the Breeze.

Beyond the worldwide attention Kelowna received, young skaters gained some international experience of their own. Athletes from the Kelowna Skating Club had an opportunity to share the ice with the world’s best, filling the important role of ice cleaners – retrieving flowers and hundreds of stuffed animals and Winnie-the-Pooh bears, repairing the ice between competitions, and skating in the opening ceremonies. Grade four students from across the Central Okanagan School District attended the competition practice sessions for a close-up view as the athletes trained and prepared.

“We are pleased that these major, international events bring unique and exciting events to Kelowna for residents to enjoy and participate in,” said Ballantyne. “Working collaboratively with the City of Kelowna, we look forward to bringing more sporting and major events in the months and years to come.”

Tourism Kelowna has a major event strategy to attract key national and international events. Recent successes include the 2018 World Mixed Curling Championships and Kelowna is gearing up to host the 2020 World Mixed Doubles and Senior Curling Championships in April 2020, and the 2020 Memorial Cup in May 2020.

Kelowna also hosted 2014 Skate Canada International, which generated over $3 million in economic impact for the city. An economic impact report for 2019 Skate Canada International will be released late in 2019 or early in 2020.