London celebrations

London’s tourism strategy strikes (again) as it lands the 2023 Brier

Whatever the year, hosting the Canadian men’s curling championship is a win for a city like London.

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Whatever the year, hosting the Canadian men’s curling championship is a win for a city like London.

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But after two years of a global pandemic that has rocked its hospitality industry, London’s latest victory – it was chosen to host the 2023 Brier, the country’s premier curling event – is almost priceless.

Organizers say the city is expecting an $8-10 million boost, including more than 2,000 hotel bookings from attendees alone, when Canada’s top men’s curling teams travel to London for 10 days next March for the nationally broadcast tournament.

For a city, especially downtown, whose hotels, restaurants and bars have been hit hard by lockdowns and closures triggered by COVID-19 precautions, the first major sporting event since the start of the pandemic can’t come soon enough.

“It will still take a while for a major recovery, but when we hear an announcement like the Brier, it adds a bit of extra excitement knowing that there are big lights at the end of the tunnel and we are going to come out of it. that,” said Dave Bartlam, sales and marketing manager for Delta Hotels in Central London, noting that his hotel has been operating at 20% capacity since Omicron-induced restrictions came into effect earlier this month. .

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In 2011, when London last hosted the Brier after hosting the 1974 edition, the event attracted over 110,000 fans.

Attracting those kinds of numbers to the city again would hopefully help bring “businesses back to where they were before the pandemic,” said Zanth Jarvis, director of sport tourism at Tourism London.

“It’s been two long, dark years,” he said. “We are thrilled and hope to give a boost to hard-hit businesses in our community, but also to members of the public who want to get out and do things in their own city.”

It was an opinion shared by the Mayor of London, Ed Holder.

“Today’s announcement comes at absolutely the right time,” he said. “We need things to look forward to, reasons to celebrate, reasons to get excited and hosting the Brier ticks all of those boxes.”

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London’s experience with major sporting events played a significant role in Curling Canada’s choice for Forest City’s bid, said Katherine Henderson, Curling Canada’s chief executive.

“London is a fabulous city,” she said. “They knock it out of the park every time they have a sporting event (and) they’ve proven to us time and time again that they know how to do it and they know how to do it really well.

“These are always tough decisions, but just going back to London and seeing the success they’ve had in the past has made that decision a whole lot easier.”

Bringing the Brier back to London was a project that took years and included hosting the Continental Cup in 2018 and 2020, said Peter Inch, vice-chairman of the organizing committee.

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“What often happens with host cities is that you have an event…and then you don’t host anything else for a while…people don’t remember how bad it was a great experience,” he said.

“So when we heard that they were looking to stage the 2018 Continental Cup, we saw that was a good step to put this event on and show again how well we can do it and how well London can do. to present.”

Attracting the Brier is part of the city’s strategy to become a landing point for all kinds of big-budget events, Jarvis said.

Last year London hosted the Canadian Country Music Awards. The city also hosted the Junos in 2019.

“I think people see us as a hockey town and we certainly are,” Jarvis said.

“But I also think we are versatile and can do a bit of everything. . . and our strategy is to use our strong local stakeholders and experience to deliver events of all shapes and sizes.

With the event over a year away, the future of the pandemic and its potential impact on the Brier is far from known.

But the plan is to host “a full Brier,” Henderson said.

“At this point, with Canada’s commitment to public health and vaccination rates, and what we’re seeing right now as a spike (in cases), we’re very confident that coming to London, we’re going to have a really great time,” she said.

“So the plan, at this point, is that we want to party together in this patch.”

With files from Free Press reporter Megan Stacey

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