CHAMBER CHAT: Business flourishes in Nanaimo during summer

NANAIMO – Festivals and events draw tourists to the Harbour City.

By Kim Smythe

My dad used to grumble when school summer holidays appeared on the horizon. He described the two months of summer as ‘a desert’ for business.

“Everybody’s wallet goes on vacation,” he would say.

This Ebenezer Scrooge of summer wasn’t opposed to good times and great weather; his focus was on the bottom line.

Dad would have liked business in Nanaimo in the summer, though. Opportunities for retailers and the tourism sector are prime. Each year, as we work our way through June, Nanaimo goes into ‘festival season.’ Multicultural Festival, Paddle Fest and several others are just rehearsals for what is to come on July 1, when people flock to Maffeo Sutton Park in droves for Canada Day.

Fast on the heels of our national love-in, the annual Save-On-Foods Nanaimo Dragonboat Festival welcomes thousands of out-of-towners to this friendly competition and celebration of life in Nanaimo’s harbour.

We’ve barely said goodbye to these folks when our unique Silly Boat Regatta invades the shores of Swy-a-lana Lagoon with 10,000 people helping to raise more than $100,000 for the Nanaimo Child Development Centre every year.

2014 is a unique year because we welcomed thousands of visitors from across the province to the B.C. Summer Games. Every hotel and motel room, B&B and campsite was booked solid and restaurant sales went through the roof. Estimated impact: $2.6 million over only four days. And a $900,000-plus Legacy Fund.

Our own iconic Marine Festival and world-famous Bathtub race took over the last weekend in July. Thousands attend the individual events, the fireworks over the harbour and the race itself. Let’s add new energy to this legacy event that helps define Nanaimo’s culture.

In August, the fun continues with events like the Blues Festival, Symphony by the Sea and VIEX. More on these in this newspaper.

Summer in Nanaimo brings a lot of fun to our little city, as well as rising tourism revenues. With airport, ferries and festivals busier than ever, there’s a liveliness in local shops and restaurant patios that are finally full from ‘light to night.’ A season that could spell slowdown for some becomes a season of opportunity for many.

Dad would have liked that a lot. We all should.

Kim Smythe is CEO of Greater Nanaimo Chamber of Commerce.